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Full text of "The Fathers Of The Church A New Translation Vol 42"

281,1 F252 v. te *" 
fathers of the Church* 




THE FATHERS 
OF THE CHURCH 

A NEW TRANSLATION 
VOLUME 42 



A NEW TRANSLATION 



EDITORIAL BOARD 



ROY JOSEPH DEFERRARI 

The Catholic University of America 
Editorial Director 



RUDOLPH ARBESMANN,, O.S.A. BERNARD M. PEEBLES 

Fordham University The Catholic University of America 

STEPHAN KUTTNER ROBERT P. RUSSELL, O.S.A. 

The Catholic University of America Villanova University 

MARTIN R. P. McGuiRE ANSELM STRITTMATTER, O.S.B. 

The Catholic University of America St. Anselm's Priory 

JAMES EDWARD TOBIN 
Queens College 



HEXAMERON, PARADISE, 



Translated by 
JOHN J. SAVAGE 



"York 

FATHERS OF THE CHURCH., INC. 

1961 



NIHEL OBSTAT: 

JOHN A, GOOBWINE 
Censor librorum 



IMPRIMATUR: 

SB FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN 
Archbishop of New York 



June 17, 1961 



Copyright 1961 by 

FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, INC. 

475 Fifth Avenue, New York 17, N. Y. 

All rights reserved 



Lithography by Bishop Litho, Inc. 
U. S. A. 




INTRODUCTION 

j HE CIRCUMSTANCES of the life of St. Ambrose up to 
374, when he became bishop of Milan, are well 
known. The date of his birth is usually given as 
either 333 or 340. His father was praefectus praetorio 
Galliarum, with headquarters at Trier. After her husband's 
early death, the widowed mother brought her three children 
to Rome. There, Ambrose, the youngest of the children, 
attended the rhetorical schools in preparation for a public 
career. He attained the office of consul about 370, with two 
northern provinces under his control. His election as bishop 
of Milan on the death of the Arian bishop Auxentius 
followed a few years later. His affability, his sense of justice, 
and his accessibility endeared him to everyone, emperors 
and commoners alike. His days were spent in administrative 
work. Still, by diligent application he was able to advance 
in learning, like many a busy priest or professor today, as he 
prepared himself for his frequent public appearances. 1 

In the intervening period between his advancement to the 
office of bishop and the delivery of the nine homilies on 

1 See De officiis ministrorum 1.1.4: Discendum igitur mihi simul et 

docendum - 



G604342 



VI SAINT AMBROSE 

The Six Days of Creation? probably during Holy Week in 
387, 3 Ambrose devoted himself to such preliminary studies 
as Paradise and Cain and Abel. The precise date of the 
sermons on creation is still a matter of dispute. Bardenhewer 4 
because of a reference in Hexameron (3.1.3) to a complete 
victory over Arianism, places the work in a period not before 
389. 

For the homilies on the creation Ambrose is much in- 
debted to the celebrated work on the same subject by his 
Greek contemporary, St. Basil, who also rose to the office 
of bishop. Basil's sermons were delivered about seventeen 
years previous to those given by his Latin admirer and, like 
those of Ambrose, in the course of one week in Lent. 
Ambrose does not actually mention Basil's name in the text 
of his work, but he refers in one passage (4.11) to the 
authority of one 'who preceded him in time and in ability. 5 
It would be a mistake to assume that Ambrose's work is 
merely a translation. It is, in fact, a free adaptation in a 
Latin dress, filled with reminiscences from Ambrose's wide 
reading in the Latin classics which he seems to have har- 
bored in his memory since his student days in Rome. The 
concluding part of his book on the work of the sixth day 
owed much to the author's reading in medical writers such 
as Galen. Ambrose's remarks on the symbolism of the struc- 

2 Manuscript tradition favors the spelling 'Exameron' rather than the 
usual 'Hexameron' (cf. C. Schenkl, CSEL 32,1.1) . Each of the six 
books is concerned with the special work of creation completed on 
each of the six days. St. Ambrose devoted two homilies each to the 
work of the first, third, and fifth days, making a total of nine 
homilies altogether, 

3 It is interesting to note that this date coincides with the dates given 
for St. Augustine's baptism at the hands of St. Ambrose. See F. D. 
Dudden, The Life and Times of St. Ambrose II (Oxford 1935) 713, 
for support of this date for Hexameron. 

4 O. Bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatim III (2nd 
ed., Freiburg B. 1923) 498-510. Cf. B. Altaner, Patrologie (2nd ed. 
Freiburg i, B.) 333, 



INTRODUCTION Vll 

ture of the human body have a striking pertinence even 
today. Ambrose's dependence on Basil for most of his exposi- 
tion should not cause us to shut our eyes to the importance 
of his achievement in this one of his major works. Here we 
are introduced to the great tradition of hexameron literature 
in the West. To say with Robbins that this work of St. 
Ambrose 'has little independent value 5 is to overlook its 
significance as a literary masterpiece. 5 

Following in the footsteps of his great model, Ambrose 
has made these sermons into a series of Christian and 
humanistic observations on nature and man in their relations 
to their Creator, who formed them out of no pre-existing 
material. In elaborating this thought from the manifold body 
of evidence presented by the Scriptures, Ambrose has in 
addition resorted to over a hundred reminiscences from 
his beloved Latin- poet. Virgil's theocentric philosophy as 
expressed especially in his Georgics became an object of 
fascination to his fellow countryman 'one might almost say 
his fellow townsman, for Virgil spent part tif his boyhood 
as a student in Milan. Ambrose has something of the spirit of 
the Roman poet who also marveled at the wonders of the 
created world in language that is often full of charm, 'All 
the charm of all the Muses often flowering in a lonely word.' 
Many of these lonely words' Ambrose embedded in his 
mosaic on creation. Of 103 reminiscences of Virgil, about 
one-half are reflections of passages in the Georgics; the 
Aeneid supplied over forty; and there are eight passages that 
suggest that Ambrose held the Eclogues in some esteem. 6 

As we might suspect from his De officiis ministrorum, 
modeled on Cicero's well-known work, the most popular 

5 F. E, Robbins, The Hexaemeral Literature (Chicago 1912) n. 58. 

6 Cf. Sister Mary D. Diederich, Vergil in the Works of St. Ambrose 
Washington 1951) ; Sister M. Theresa of the Cross Springer, Nature 
Imagery in the Works of St. Ambrose (Washington 1931) . 



Vlll SAINT AMBROSE 

prose author with Ambrose was Cicero. One is not surprised, 
therefore, that there are about twenty reflections from Cicero 
in Hexameron, taken largely from the commendation given 
to agricultural pursuits in De senectute. The Lucretian 
phrases which appear here and there in Hexameron seem to 
be part of the common stock of scientific terms to which the 
Roman poet gave currency. We are somewhat taken by 
surprise to see how Ambrose has stored in his mind some 
half-score of Horace's happy phrases. Sallust, so popular in 
the Christian schools for his moral maxims, furnishes three 
clear reflections. Of course, the majority of citations or 
reminiscences are from the Old and New Testaments, being 
in Hexameron at the ratio of five or six to one of the non- 
Christian authors. Nevertheless, this proportion is a striking 
one. Here we find ourselves firmly entrenched in the great 
tradition of Christian humanism. We are reminded of the 
suavitas or charm which Augustine felt was the characteristic 
of the homilies of Ambrose. 7 

This and the following two minor works of St. Ambrose 
have never before been translated into English. There is no 
question that a work such as Hexameron, because of its in- 
trinsic worth and because of its unusual influence on later 
literature and art, deserves to appear in an English dress. 8 
This book, with its many poetic overtones, is a challenge to 
any translator. The precious bits which the late E, K. Rand 
rendered into choice English in his Founders make us wish 
that he had applied his skill to the work as a whole. Some 
of the strikingly poetic passages in Hexameron overflowed 

7 See the brief but penetrating statements on the humanism of St. 
Ambrose in Gerald Groveland Walsh, Medieval Humanism (New York 
1942) 27-28. 

8 Cf. Pierre de Labriolle, Histoire de la litt&rature latine chrtienne 
(Paris 1947) 409. Ambrose, notwithstanding his ties with classical 
prose style, has set the pattern for the future, if not in prose, at 
least in verse; see M. P. Cunningham, Studies in Philology 52 (1955) 
509-514. 



INTRODUCTION IX 

into Ambrose's famous hymns, especially the famous 'Aeterne 
rerum Conditor? This hymn can be looked upon as either a 
prelude or a postlude to his prose work on creation. 

The two minor works, the translation of which appears in 
this volume, reflect Ambrose's wide reading in the allegorical 
interpretation of much of the Old Testament, found especial- 
ly in several volumes by Philo Judaeus of Alexandria. 9 The 
rhetorical style of these two works suggest that, like the 
homilies on creation, they were delivered orally and, perhaps, 
also recorded by a notarius 

The homily Paradise is an early work of St. Ambrose. 
This is clear from a statement he makes in a letter addressed 
to Sabinus. 11 In this letter, which was written soon after the 
publication of Hexameron (c. 389), Ambrose refers to 
Paradise in terms that are somewhat derogatory, stating 
that it was written many years ago before he had acquired 
experience as a bishop. Since he became bishop of Milan in 
374, it may be conjectured that Paradise was written a 
year or two later, that is, about 375. It would be difficult to 
determine what changes or modifications, if any, the author 
would have made in the treatment of this subject at a time 
when, presumably, his judgment was more mature. Ambrose, 
in the course of his letter to Sabinus, seems to emphasize 
what he has already discussed in his homily (3.13 and 11.57) 
that Paradise should not be regarded as a place, but as an 
aspect of the higher part of our nature. Ambrose was well 
acquainted with the allegorical interpretation of the Old 
Testament found in the works of Philo Judaeus, although he 
mentions the name of this influential writer but once (4.25). 

St. Ambrose seems to have planned Cain and Abel as a 

9 Philo with an English translation by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker 
I-VIII (London and New York 1929) . 

10 See Hexameron 5.12.36. 

11 Letter 43; it is translated as Letter 25 by Sister Mary Beyenka 
(Fathers of the Church 26) 129434. 



3C SAINT AMBROSE 

continuation of Paradise. If the date 375 is accepted for the 
latter work, then Cain and Abel was written soon after. 
Both of these minor works follow a rhetorical pattern 
characteristic of the 'homily. 3 St. Ambrose is committed to 
the allegorical mode of interpretation laid down by Philo, 
especially in De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini. 1 * Although he is 
thus not the first to introduce this method of interpretation 
in the West, he has set upon it his imposing stamp a stamp 
which is conspicuous in medieval art and literature. 

The translation has been based principally on the critical 
edition of C. Schenkl, CSEL 32,1, for Hexameron (3-261), 
for the De Paradiso (267-336) and for De Cain et Abel 
(339-409). The valuable Benedictine edition of 1686-90 as 
reprinted in Migne, PL 14 (123-274; 275-314; 315-341), 
has been consulted. For the sake of arousing the interest of 
the reader the translator has ventured to break up the 
longer paragraphs. 

The citations from Scripture conform for the most part 
to Challoner's revision of the Rheims-Douay translation for 
the Old Testament. For the New Testament and for Genesis, 
except where St. Ambrose's quotations represent a definite 
departure from the Vulgate, the new translations under- 
taken under the auspices of the Confraternity of Christian 
Doctrine have been used. The Hexameron, since it pre- 
supposed the text and Scriptural quotation of St. Basil's 
work on the same subject, presented a special problem. So 
many departures from the Vulgate appeared in these cita- 
tions of St. Ambrose that is seemed unnecessary to refer to 
the Septuagint version in so many individual cases. 

12 Philonis Alexandrini opera quae supersunt I, ed. L. Cohn (Berlin 

1896) 202-257. The extent of Ambrose's dependence on Philo can be 

gauged by consulting the extensive list of parallels cited by C, 
Schenkl in his critical edition, CSEL 32.1 3-261, 339-40S 



INTRODUCTION XI 

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Editions and Translations: 

Gohn, L., and P. Wendland, Philonis Alexandrini opera quae 

supersunt (Berlin 1896) I 1-60 (De opifido mundi) ; 61-169 

(Legum allegoriae) . 
Colson, F. H., and G. H. Whitaker, Philo, text with translation into 

English (London and New York 1929) I (De opifido mundi; 

Legum allegorize) ; supplementary Vol. I. ed. R. Marcus 

(Cambridge, Mass. 1953) (Quaestiones in Genesim) . 
Frisch, J, du, et N. le Nourry, Sancti Ambrosii episcopi opera, 2 v. 

(Paris 1686-1690). 
Giet, S., Basile de Cesaree, home'lies sur I'Hexaemeron, Greek text 

with French translations (Paris 1949) . 
Migne, J. P., Patrologiae Latinae cursus completus (3rd reprint of 

Benedictine edition), (Paris 1845) 14.123-274; 275-314; 315-341. 
Niederhuber. J. E., Ambrosius von Mailand Exameron, trans, into 

German, Bibliothek der Kirchenvater I (Kempten and Munich 

1914) . 
Pasteris, E., San Ambrogio, Uesamerone ossia delV origine e natura 

delle cose, text with translation, into Italian, Corona Paitrum 

Salesiana ser. Lat. 4 (Turin 1937) . 
Schenkl, C., Sancti Ambrosii Opera, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesia 

sticorum Latinorum 32.1 (Vienna 1896) 3-261; 267-336; 339-409. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Secondary Works: 

Altaner, B., Patrologie (2nd ed., Freiburg i. B. 1950) . 
Bardenhewer, O., Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur III (2nd 

ed, Freiburg i. B. 1923) . 
Breiher, E., "Philo Judaeus," Catholic Encyclopedia XII (New York 

1911) 23-25. 
Diederich, Sister Mary D., Vergil in the Works of St. Ambrose 

(Washington 1931). 
Dudden, F. H., The Life and Times of St. Ambrose, 2 v. (Oxford 

1935) . 
Labriolle, Pierre de, Histoire de la littdmture latine chrdtienne 

(3rd ed., Paris 1947) . 

Rand, E. K., Founders of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass. 1928) . 
Springer, Sister M. Theresa of the Cross, Nature Imagery in the 

Works of St. Ambrose (Washington 1931) . 
Walpole, A. S., Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge 1922) 16-114. 
Wolfson, H. A., Philo I (Cambridge, Mass. 1947) 295-324, (Creation) ; 

424-462 (Free Will). 



SAINT AMBROSE 

HEXAMERON, PARADISE, 
AND CAIN AND ABEL 



Translated by 
JOHN J. SAVAGE 

Professor Emeritus of Classics 
Fordham University 



THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION 
BOOK ONE: THE FIRST DAY 

THE FIRST HOMILY 

Chapter 1 



jo SUCH AN EXTENT have men's opinions varied that 
some, like Plato and his pupils, have established 
three principles for all things; that is, God, Idea, 
and Matter. The same philosophers hold that these principles 
are uncreated, incorruptible, and without a beginning. They 
maintain that God, acting not as a creator of matter but as 
a craftsman who reproduced a model, that is, an Idea, made 
the world out of matter. This matter, which they call &to\ y 
is considered to have given the power of creation to all 
things. The world, too, they regard as incorruptible, not 
created or made. Still others hold opinions such as those 
which Aristotle considered worthy of being discussed with 
his pupils. These postulate two principles, matter and form, 




4 SAINT AMBROSE 

and along with these a third principle which is called 
'efficient/ which Aristotle considered to be sufficient to bring 
effectively into existence what in his opinion should be 
initiated. 

(2) What, therefore, is more absurd than to link the 
eternity of the work of creation with the eternity of God the 
omnipotent? Or to identify the creation itself with God so 
as to confer divine honors on the sky, the earth, and the 
sea? From this opinion there proceeds the belief that parts 
of the world are gods. Yet on the constitution of the world 
itself there is no small difference of opinion among philo- 
sophers. 

(3) Pythagoras maintains that there is one world. Others 
say that the number of worlds is countless, as was stated 
by Democritus, whose treatment of the natural sciences has 
been granted the highest authority by the ancients. 1 That the 
world always was and always will be is the claim of Aristotle. 
On the other hand, Plato ventures to assert that the world 
did not always exist, but that it will always exist* A great 
many writers, however, give us evidence from their works 
that they believe that the world did not always exist and 
that it will not exist forever. 

(4) How is it possible to arrive at an estimate of the 
truth amid such warring opinions? Some, indeed, state that 
the wortd itself is God, inasmuch as they consider that a 
divine mind seems to be within it, while others maintain 
that God is in parts of the world; others still, that He is in 
both in which case it would be impossible to determine 
what is the appearance of God, or what is His number, 
position, life, or activity. If this evaluation of the world be 
followed, we have to understand God to be without sense, 
something which rotates, is round, is aflame, and impelled 

1 Cf. Cicero, De natura deorum 1.120. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 



by certain movements something driven, not by its own 
force, but by something external to it. 2 



Chapter 2 

(5) Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses, a 
holy man, foresaw that these errors would appear among 
men and perhaps had already appeared. At the opening of 
his work he speaks thus: 'In the beginning God created 
heaven and earth.' 1 He linked together the beginnings of 
things, the Creator of the world, and the creation of matter 
in order that you might understand that God existed before 
the beginning of the world or that He was Himself the 
beginning of all things. So in the Gospel, in answer to those 
who were inquiring of Him 'Who art thou? J He replied: 
'I am the beginning, I who speak with you. 52 All this was 
that you might know that He gave to all created things their 
beginnings and that He is the Creator of the world not one 
who imitates matter under the guidance of some Idea, from 
which He formed His work, not in accordance with His 
will, but in compliance with a self-proposed model. Fittingly, 
too, Moses says: 'In the beginning He created, 3 in order that, 
where He had made clear the effect of the operation already 
completed, before giving an indication of its having been 
begun, He might thus express the incomprehensible speed of 
the work. 

(6) Our attention should be drawn to the person who 
uttered this statement. He was, of course, Moses, a man 
learned in all the science of the Egyptians. He was rescued 

2 Ibid. 2.46. 



1 Gen. 1.1. 

2 John 8.25 (Clementine Vulgate) . 



6 SAINT AMBROSE 

from the river by the daughter of Pharao, who cherished 
him as if he were her own son and desired that he be trained 
and instructed in all phases of secular learning with aid 
furnished from the royal treasury. Although he received 
his name from water, 3 he did not consider as true the 
hypothesis held by Thales, that all things are derived from 
water. And although he had been educated in the royal 
palace, he preferred, because of his love of justice., to under- 
go voluntary exile rather than, because of his love of justice, 
to be a servant of sin in the midst of pleasure as a high 
official at a tyrant's court. Finally, before he was called to 
the task of liberating his people, he fell into disgrace, urged 
on, as he was, by his natural zeal for what is right to the 
extent of avenging the wrong done to his fellow countrymen. 
Wherefore, he tore himself away from pleasure and, shun- 
ing all the excitement of the royal palace, retired to a 
secluded spot in Ethiopia. There, removed from all other 
cares, he gave himself wholly to divine contemplation, in 
order that he might behold the glory of God face to face. 
This is in accord with the testimony of Scripture, that 'there 
arose no greater prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom 
the Lord knew face to face.' 4 He spoke to God the highest, 
not in a vision nor in dreams, but mouth to mouth. Plainly 
and clearly, not by figures nor by riddles, 5 there was be- 
stowed on him the gift of the divine presence. 

( 7 ) And so Moses opened his mouth and uttered what the 
Lord spoke within him, according to the promise He made 
to him when He directed him to go to King Pharao: 'Go 
therefore and I will open thy mouth and instruct thee what 
thou shouldst speak/ 6 For, if he had already accepted from 
God what he should say concerning the liberation of the 

3 Cf. Exod. 2.10. 

4 Deut. 34.10, 

5 Cf. Num. 12.6-8. 

6 Exod. 4.12. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 7 

people, how much more should you accept what He should 
say concerning heaven? Therefore, c not in the persuasive 
words of wisdom/ not in philosophical fallacies, 'but in the 
demonstration of the Spirit and power/ 7 he has ventured to 
say as if he were a witness of the divine work: 4 In the 
beginning God created heaven and earth.' He did not look 
forward to a late and leisurely creation of the world out of 
a concourse of atoms. He did not await a pupil, so to speak, 
of matter, who, by contemplating it, could fashion a world. 
Rather, he thought that God should be declared to be its 
Author. Being a man full of wisdom, he noticed that the 
substances and the causes of things visible and invisible were 
contained in the divine mind. He did not hold, as the 
philosophers teach, that a stronger conjunction of atoms 
furnished the cause of their continuous duration. He pointed 
out that those who give such tiny and unsubstantial first 
principles to heaven and earth were just weaving a web 
like a spider's. How could these be joined together by chance 
as well as being dissolved in the same planless way, without 
a firm basis in the divine power of their Ruler? No wonder 
that they know not their Ruler who know not their God, by 
whom all things are ruled and governed. Let us follow him 
who knew both the Author and the Ruler, and let us not 
be led astray by vain opinions. 



Chapter 3 

(8) c ln the beginning, 3 he said. What a good arrange- 
ment that he should first assert what these men are accus- 
tomed to deny, that they may realize, too, that there was a 
beginning to the world, lest men be of the opinion that the 

7 l Cor. 2.4. 



8 SAINT AMBROSE 

world was without a beginning. For this reason David, too, 
in speaking of 'heaven, earth, and sea, 5 says: Thou hast 
made all things in wisdom.' 1 He [Moses] gave, therefore, a 
beginning to the world; he gave also to the creature infirmity, 
lest we believe him to be without a beginning, uncreated, 
and still partaking in the divine essence. And fittingly he 
added: 'He created, lest it be thought there was a delay in 
creation. Furthermore, men would see also how incompar- 
able the Creator was who completed such a great work in 
the briefest moment of His creative act, so much so that 
the effect of His will anticipated the perception of time. 
No one saw Him in the act of creation; they saw only the 
created work before them. Where, therefore, was there a 
delay, since you may read: 'For He spoke and they were 
made; He commanded and they were created'? 2 He who 
in a momentary exercise of His will completed such a 
majestic work employed no art or skill so that those things 
which were not were so quickly brought into existence; 
the will did not outrun the creation nor the creation, the will 
(9) You admire the work, you seek for a Creator who 
granted a beginning to such a great work, who so speedily 
made it? He [Moses] gives us the information immediately, 
saying that 'God created heaven and earth.' You have the 
name of the Creator; you ought not to have any doubts. 
He it is in whose name Melchisedech blessed Abraham, the 
forefather of many peoples, saying: 'Blessed be Abram by 
the most high God, creator of heaven and earth.' 3 And 
Abraham believed God and said: 'I raise my hand to the 
Lord God most high, creator of heaven and earth. 34 You 
see that this was not an invention made by man, but an 

1 Ps. 103.24. 

2 Ps. 32.9; 148.5. 

3 Gen. 14.19. 

4 Gen. 14.22. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 9 

announcement made by God. For God is Melchisedech, 
that is, 'He is king of peace and justice, having neither the 
beginning of days nor end of life/ 5 No wonder, therefore, 
that God, who is without end, gave a beginning to all 
things, so that what was not began to exist. No wonder that 
God, who contains all things in His power and incompre- 
hensible majesty, created the things that are visible, since 
He also created those things that are not visible. Who would 
assert that the visible is more significant than the invisible, 
'for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that 
are not seen are eternal'? 6 Who can doubt that God, who 
spoke by the Prophets, created these things, saying: 'Who 
hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and 
weighed the heavens with his palm? Who hath poised with 
three fingers the bulk of the earth and weighed the moun- 
tains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who hath under- 
stood the sense of the Lord? Or who hath been his 
counsellor; or who hath taught him?' 7 Of Him we also read 
elsewhere: Tor he holds the circuit of the earth and made 
the earth as nothing.' 8 And Jeremias says: 'The gods that 
have not made heaven and earth will perish from the earth 
and from among those places that are under heaven. He 
that made the earth by his power and prepared the world 
by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens at his knowl- 
edge and a multitude of waters in the heaven.' And he 
added: 'Man is become a fool for knowledge/ 9 How can 
one who pursues the corruptible things of the world and 
thinks that from these things he can comprehend the truth 
of divine nature not become a fool as he makes use of the 
artifices of sophistry? 

5 Heb. 7.2,3. 

6 2 Cor. 4.18. 

7 Isa. 40.12,13. 

8 Isa. 40.22,23. 

9 Jer. 10.11-14. 



10 SAINT AMBROSE 

(10) Since, therefore, so many oracles are heard in which 
God gives testimony that He made the world, do not then 
believe that it was without a beginning because the world 
is said to be, as it were, a sphere in which there would 
appear to be no beginning. And when it thunders, every- 
thing is stirred around about us as if in a whirling movement, 
so that one cannot easily comprehend either where the 
vortex begins or where it ends. The reason is this: To 
perceive by one's senses the beginning of a circle is con- 
sidered to be impossible. You cannot discover the beginning 
of a sphere or from what point the round disk of the moon 
begins or where it ends in its monthly wanings. Not even 
if you do not understand it yourself does this phenomenon 
cease to begin or in any way to come to an end. If you were 
to draw a circle with ink or pencil or with a compass, you 
could not easily detect with your eyes or mentally recall 
after an interval of time the point where you began or where 
you completed your circle. Yet you are conscious that you 
made a beginning and also came to an end. The reason is 
this: What has escaped the senses has not caused the truth 
to be undermined. 

Again, what has a beginning also has an end; it is 
obvious that which has an end also has a beginning. The 
Saviour Himself tells us in the Gospel that there is to be an 
end of the world, saying: Tor this world as we see it is 
passing away 5 ; and 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but 
my words will not pass away 3 ; and further on: 'Behold I 
am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the 
world. 310 

(11) How, then, can philosophers maintain that the 
world is co-eternal with God and make the created equal 
with the Creator of all things? How can they hold that the 
material body of the world should be linked with the 

10 1 Cor. 7.31; Matt. 24.35; 28.20. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 1 1 

invisible and unapproachable divine nature? so much the 
more, since, according to their own teachings, they cannot 
deny that an object whose parts are subject to corruption 
and mutability must as a whole be subject to the same in- 
fluences which its own separate parts undergo. 



Chapter 4 

Therefore, He who uttered these words, 'In the beginning 
God created heaven and earth,' teaches us that there is a 
beginning. (12) The term 'beginning 3 has reference either to 
time or to number or to foundation. We see that this is true in 
the construction of a house : the foundation is the beginning. 
We know, too, from the authority of Scripture that one can 
speak of a beginning of a conversion or of a falling away. 1 
The beginning of a work of art lies in the craft itself, which 
is the source of the individual skills of a series of craftsmen. 
There is also a beginning to good works. This consists in a 
most commendable purpose or end, as, for example, acts 
of charity have their source in deeds which are done to do 
honor to God, for we are especially urged to come to the 
aid of our fellow men. The term 'beginning 3 is applied also 
to the power of God. It is concerned with the category of 
time when we deal with the question of the time when God 
made heaven and earth, that is, at the commencement of the 
world, when it began to come into being, in the words of 
Wisdom: 'When he prepared the heaven I was present.' 2 
If we apply the term to number, then it is right that you 
understand that at first He created heaven and earth; next, 
hills, regions, and the boundaries of the inhabitable world. 
Or we may understand that before He created the rest of 

1 Wisd. 14.12-14. 

2 Prov. 8.27. 



12 SAINT AMBROSE 

visible creatures, day, night, fruit-bearing trees, and the 
various kinds of animals He created heaven and earth. But, 
if you apply the term to foundation, you will see, if you read 
the words of Wisdom, that the beginning is the foundation: 
'When he made the foundations of the earth, I was with 
him forming all things. 33 

There is also the beginning of good instruction, as it is 
said: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom/ 4 
since he who fears the Lord departs from error and directs 
his ways to the path of virtue. Except a man fear the Lord, 
he is unable to renounce sin. 

(13) In like manner, also, we can understand this state- 
ment: This month shall be to you the beginning of months. 35 
although that statement is to be interpreted merely of time, 
because there is reference to the Pasch of the Lord, which 
is celebrated at the beginning of spring. Therefore, He 
created heaven and earth at the time when the months 
began, from which time it is fitting that the world took its 
rise. Then there was the mild temperature of spring, a season 
suitable for all things. 

Consequently, the year, too, has the stamp of a world 
coming to birth, as the splendor of the springtime shines 
forth all the more clearly because of the winter's ice and 
darkness now past. The shape of the circles of years to come 
has been given form by the first dawn of the world. Based 
on that precedent, the succession of years would tend to 
arise, and at the commencement of each year new seedlings 
would be produced, as the Lord God has said: 'Let the 
earth bring forth the green herb and such as may seed, and 
the fruit tree, yielding fruit after its kind. And immediately 
the earth produced the green herb and the fruit-bearing 

3 Prov. 8.29,30. 

4 Prov. 1.7. 

5 Exod, 12.2. 



six DAYS OP CREATION: ONE 13 

tree.' 6 By this very fact both the constant mildness of divine 
Providence and the speed in which the earth germinates 
favor for us the hypothesis of a vernal period. For, although 
it was in the power of God to ordain creation at any time 
whatsoever and for earthly nature to obey, so that amid 
winter's ice and frost earth might bear and produce fruits 
under the fostering hand of His celestial power. He refrained. 
It was not in His eternal plan that the land held fast in the 
rigid bonds of frost should suddenly be released to bear 
fruits and that blooming plants should mingle with frosts 
unsightly, 7 

Wherefore, in order to show that the creation of the 
world took place in the spring, Scripture says: 'This month 
shall be to you the beginning of months, it is for you the 
first in the months of the year,' 8 calling the first month the 
springtime. It was fitting that the beginning of the year be 
the beginning of generation and that generation itself be 
fostered by the gentler breezes. The tender germs of matter 
would be unable to endure exposure to the bitter cold of 
winter or to the torrid heat of summer. 9 

(14) At the same time, one may note, since it belongs 
here by right, that the entrance into this generation and 
into this way of life seems to have occurred at the time when 
the regular transition from this generation to regeneration 
takes place. 

The sons of Israel left Egypt in the season of spring and 
passed through the sea, being baptized in the cloud and in 
the sea, as the Apostle said. 10 At that time each year the 
Pasch of Jesus Christ is celebrated, that is to say, the passing 
over from vices to virtues, from the desires of the flesh to 

6 Gen. 1.11. 

7 Cf. Virgil, Georges 2.330-345; Lucretius 5.783-792. 

8 Exod. 12.2. 

9 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 2.343-345. 
10 Cf. 1 Cor. 10.1. 



14 SAINT AMBROSE 

grace and sobriety of mind, from the unleavened bread of 
malice and wickedness to truth and sincerity. 11 Accordingly, 
the regenerated are thus addressed : 'This month shall be to 
you the beginning of months; it is for you the first in the 
months of the year. 3 

The person who is baptized leaves behind and abandons 
in a spiritual sense that prince of the world, Pharao, when 
he says: e l renounce thee, devil, both thy works and thy 
power. 312 No longer will he serve him, either by the earthly 
passions of his body or by the errors of a corrupt mind. On 
this occasion every evil deed of his sinks to the bottom like 
lead. Protected as he is by good works on his right and his 
left, he endeavors to cross over the waters of this life with 
step untainted. 

Scripture also says in the book called Numbers: 'Amalec, 
the beginning of nations, whose seed will be destroyed. 313 
And, of course, Amalec is not the first of all nations, Amalec, 
in fact, is interpreted to mean the king of the wicked and by 
the wicked it is intended to mean the Gentiles. There is no 
reason why we should not accept him as one whose seed 
shall perish. His seed are the wicked and the unfaithful, to 
whom the Lord says: 'You are the voice of your father the 
devil. 314 

(15) A beginning in a mystical sense is denoted by the 
statement: C I am the first and last, the beginning and the 
end. 315 The words of the Gospel are significant in this con- 
nection, especially wherein the Lord, when asked who He 
was, replied: I am the beginning, I who speak with you.' 16 
In truth, He who is the beginning of all things by virtue of 

11 Cf. l Cor. 5,8. 

12 John 14.30. 

13 Num. 24.20. 

14 Cf. John 8.44. 

15 Apoc. 1.8. 

16 John 8.25 (Clementine Vulgate) . 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 15 

His divinity is also the end, because there is no one after 
Him. According to the Gospel, the beginning of the ways of 
God is in His work, so that the race of men might learn by 
Him to follow the ways of the Lord and to perform the works 
of God. 17 

Therefore, in this beginning, that is, in Christ, God 
created heaven and earth, because 'All things were made 
through him and without him was made nothing that was 
made.' 18 Again: 'In him all things hold together and he is 
the firstborn of every creature.' 19 Moreover, He was before 
every creature because He is holy. The firstborn indeed are 
holy, as 'the firstborn of Israel/ 20 not in the sense of being 
before all, but because the firstborn are holier than the rest. 
The Lord is holy above all creatures for the very reason that 
He assumed a body. He alone is without sin and without 
vanity, while all 'creation was made subject to vanity.' 21 

(16) We can also understand that the statement, 'In the 
beginning God created heaven and earth,' has reference to 
a period. The beginning of a journey is not yet a completion, 
nor is the beginning of a building yet the finished house. 

Finally, others have interpreted the Greek phrase V 
KecpccXouo as if in capite, by which is meant that in a brief 
moment the sum of the operation was completed. Then there 
are also those who interpret the beginning not in a temporal 
sense, but as something before time. Hence, they use the 
Greek word KEcpaXatov in the sense of its Latin equivalent, 
caput } indicating by this the sum of the work. Heaven and 
earth, in fact, are the sum of the invisible things which 
appear not only as the adornment of this world, but also as 
a testimony of invisible things and as 'an evidence of things 

\l Cf. Prov. 8.22. 

18 John 1.8. 

19 Col. 1.15. 

20 Exod. 4.22. 

21 Rom. 8.20. 



16 SAINT AMBROSE 

that are not seen/ 22 according to the prophecy: 'The 
heavens show forth the glory of God and the firmament 
declareth the work of his hands.' 23 The Apostle, inspired by 
the above, expresses in other words the same thought when 
he says: Tor his invisible attributes are understood through 
the things that are made.' 24 We can find it easy to under- 
stand, then, that the Creator of Angels, Dominations, and 
Powers is He who in a moment of His power made this 
great beauty of the world out of nothing, which did not 
itself have existence and gave substance to things or causes 
that did not themselves exist, 

Chapter 5 

(17) This world is an example of the workings of God, 
because, while we observe the work, the Worker is brought 
before us. The arts may be considered in various aspects. 
There are those which are practical. These relate to the 
movement of the body or to the sound of the voice. When 
the movement or the sound has passed away, there is nothing 
that survives or remains for the spectators or the hearers. 
Other arts are theoretical. These display the vigor of the 
mind. There are other arts of such a nature that, even when 
the processes of operation cease, the handiwork remains 
visible. As an example of this we have buildings or woven 
material which, even when the craftsman is silent, still 
exhibit his skill, so that testimony is presented of the crafts- 
man's own work. In a similar way, this work is a distinctive 
mark of divine majesty from which the wisdom of God is 
made manifest. On beholding this, raising the eyes of his 
mind at the same time to the things invisible, the Psalmist 

22 Heb. 11.1. 

23 Ps. 18.1. 

24 Rom. 1.20. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION I ONE 1 7 

says: 'How great are thy works, O Lord; Thou hast made 
all things in wisdom.' 1 

(18) Certainly not without reason do we read that the 
world was made, for many of the Gentiles who maintain 
that the world is co-eternal with God, as if it were a shadow 
of divine power, affirm also that it subsists of itself. Although 
they admit that the cause of it is God, they assert that the 
cause does not proceed from His own will and rule. Rather, 
they make it to be analogous to the shadow in respect to the 
body. For the shadow stays close to the body and a flash 
follows the light more by natural association than by exer- 
cise of free will. 

Therefore, Moses says most commendably that 'God 
created heaven and earth.' He did not say that He made it 
subsist or that He provided a cause for the world to exist. 
Rather, He created it as a good man makes what would be 
of use, as a philosopher propounding his best thoughts, as 
one all-powerful foreseeing what is to be the most magni- 
ficent. Again, how can one imagine a shadow where a body 
did not exist, since there cannot be a corporeal shadow 
where a body did not exist, since there cannot be a corporeal 
shadow of an incorporeal God? Also, how can the brilliance 
of incorporeal light be corporeal? 

(19) If you are seeking after the splendor of God, the Son 
is the image of the invisible God. As God is, so is the image. 
God is invisible; then the image also is invisible. It is 'the 
brightness of the glory of His Father and an image of His 
substance.' 2 'In the beginning,' we are told, 'God created 
heaven and earth.' And the world was therefore created 
and that which was not began to exist. And the word of 
God was in the beginning and always was. 3 

1 Ps. 103.24. 

2 Heb. 1.3. 

3 John 1.1. 



18 SAINT AMBROSE 

The Angels, Dominations, and Powers, although they 
began to exist at some time, were already in existence when 
the world was created* For all things 'were created, things 
visible and things invisible, whether Thrones or Dominations 
or Principalities or Powers. All things, 3 we are told, 'have 
been created through and unto him/ 2 

What is meant by 'created unto him 3 ? Because He is the 
heir of the Father, from the fact that inheritance passed 
from the Father unto Him, as the Father says: 'Ask of me 
and I will give thee the Gentiles for thine inheritance. 54 
This inheritance nevertheless passed to the Son and returns 
from the Son to the Father. And so in notable fashion the 
Apostle said in this place that the Son was the Author of all 
things, one who holds all things by His majesty. Addressing 
the Romans, he says concerning the Father: *For from him 
and through him and unto him are all things.' 6 'From him' 
means the beginning and origin of the substance of the 
universe, that is, by His will and power. For all things began 
by His will, because one only is the Father, from whom all 
things come. By this is meant that He created through Him- 
self, who created from what source He desired. Through 
him' means the continuation of the universe; *unto him' 
means its end. 

'From him, 3 therefore, is the material; 'through him,' 
the operation by which the universe is bound and linked 
together; 'unto him,' because as long as He wishes all things 
remain and endure by His power and the end of all things 
is directed toward the will of God, by whose free act all 
things are resolved, 

4 Col. 1.16. 

5 Ps. 2.8, 

6 Rom. 11.36. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 19 

Chapter 6 

(20) In the beginning of time, therefore, God created 
heaven and earth. Time proceeds from this world, not before 
the world. And the day is a division of time, not its beginning. 

In the course of our account we may affirm that the Lord 
created day and night, which constitute time changes. And 
on the second day He created the firmament by which He 
divided the water which was under the heaven from the 
water above the heaven. Nevertheless, for our present pur- 
poses it is sufficient to assert that in the beginning He created 
the heaven, from which proceeds the preliminary cause of 
generation, and created the earth, in which existed the sub- 
stance of generation. 

In fact, with heaven and earth were created those four 
elements from which are generated everything in the world. 
The elements are four in number: heaven, fire, water, and 
earth elements which are found mingled in all things. You 
may find fire also in earth, for it frequently arises from 
stones and iron; you may find it also in the heavens, since 
it may take fire and the skies may gleam with brilliant stars. 
In the heavens, too, we can perceive the presence of water, 
which is either above the heavens or from that high position 
falls frequently to earth in heavy rainstorms. 

We can in many ways demonstrate this, if we observe 
that these elements are of advantage in the building of a 
church. But, since it is not profitable to be concerned with 
this, let us rather turn our attention to those matters which 
may be fruitful for eternal life. 

(21) It is sufficient, therefore, to set forth what we find 
in the writings of Isaias concerning the nature and the sub- 
stance of the heavens. In modest and familiar language he 
described the nature of tHe heavens when he said that God 



20 SAINT AMBROSE 

'hath fixed the heavens like smoke/ 1 desiring to declare it 
to be not of solid but of subtle nature. 

As to its form, what Isaias has said about the firmament 
of the heavens makes it more than clear that God created 
'heaven like a vault/ because within the range of heaven 
all things which move in the sea and land are enclosed. This 
is the implication, too, of what we read that 'God stretched 
out the heavens. 52 He stretched it out as you would stretch 
skins over tents, the dwelling places of the saints, or as a 
scroll, that the names of many be inscribed therein who 
merited the grace of Christ by their faith and devotion. 
To all such it is said: 'Rejoice in this that your names are 
written in heaven. 33 

(22) On the nature and position of the earth there should 
be no need to enter into discussion at this point with respect 
to what is to come. It is sufficient for our information to 
state what the text of the Holy Scriptures establishes, namely, 
that, c he hangeth the earth upon nothing. 54 

What need is there to discuss whether the earth hangs in 
the air or rests on the water? From this would arise a con- 
troversy as to whether the nature of the air which is slight 
and yielding is such as to sustain a mass of earth; also, 
the question would arise, if the earth rested on the waters, 
would not the earth by its weight fall and sink into the 
waters? Or would not the waters of the sea give way to the 
earth and, moved from its accustomed place, would not the 
sea pour itself over the borders of the land? 

There are many, too, who have maintained that the 
earth, placed in the midst of the air, remains motionless there 
by its own weight, because it extends itself equally on all 

1 Isa. 51.6. 

2 Isa. 40.22. 

3 Luke 10.20. 

4 Job 26.7. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: ONE 21 

sides. As to this subject, let us reflect on what was said by the 
Lord to His servant Job when He spoke through the clouds : 
'Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? 
Tell me if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the 
measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched 
the line upon it? Or upon what are the circles grounded? 
And further on: C I shut up the sea with doors, and I said: 
Hitherto thou shalt come and shalt go no further, but in thee 
shall be broken thy waves. 35 Does not God clearly show that 
all things are established by His majesty, not by number, 
weight, and measures? For the creature has not given the 
law; rather, he accepts it or abides by that which has been 
accepted. 

The earth is therefore not suspended in the middle of the 
universe like a balance hung in equilibrium, but the majesty 
of God holds it together by the law of His own will, so that 
what is steadfast should prevail over the void and unstable. 
The Prophet David also bears witness to this when he says: 
'He has founded the earth upon its own bases: it shall not 
be moved for ever and ever. 36 There, certainly, God is as- 
serted to be not merely an artist, but one who is omnipotent, 
as one who suspended the earth, not from some central 
point, but from the firmament according to His command, 
and did not allow it to sway. We ought not to accept the 
measurement as coming from the center, but as the result of 
a divine decree, because the measurement is not that of an 
art, but that of power, of justice and of knowledge. All 
things do not escape His wisdom as if they were immeasur- 
able, but underlie His knowledge as if they were already 
measured. When we read: 1 have established the pillars 
thereof,' 7 we cannot believe that the world was supported 

5 Job. 38.4-6,8,11.- 

6 "Ps. 103.5. 

7 Ps. 74.4. 



22 SAINT AMBROSE 

actually by columns, but rather by that power that props up 
the substance of the earth and sustains it. 

How the disposition of the earth therefore depends upon 
the power of God, you may learn also where it is written: 
'He looketh upon the earth and maketh it tremble/ 8 and 
elsewhere: 'One again I move the earth.' 9 Therefore, the 
earth remains immovable not by its balances, but is moved 
frequently by the nod and free will of God, as Job, too, 
says: The Lord shaketh it from its foundations, and the 
pillars thereof tremble.' And elsewhere : 'Hell is naked before 
him and there is no covering for death. He stretched out the 
north over the empty space and hangeth the earth upon 
nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his clouds. The pillars 
of heaven fled away and are in dread at his rebuke. By his 
power the seas are calmed, by his wisdom Is struck down 
the sea-monster, and the gates of heaven fear him. no 

By the will of God, therefore, the earth remains im- 
movable. The earth standeth for ever, 5 according to Eccles- 
iastes, 11 yet is moved and nods according to the will of God. 
It does not therefore continue to exist because based on its 
own foundations. It does not stay stable because of its own 
props. The Lord established it by the support of His will, 
because e in his hand are all the ends of the earth.* 12 The 
simplicity of this faith is worth all the proffered proofs. 

Let others hold approvingly that the earth never will fall, 
because it keeps its position in the midst of the world in 
accordance with nature. They maintain that it is from neces- 
sity that the earth remains in its place and is not inclined in 
another direction, as long as it does not move contrary to 
nature but in accordance with it. Let them take occasion to 

8 Ps, 103.32. 

9 Agg. 2.7. 

10 Job 9.6; 26.6-11. 

11 Eccle. 1.4. 

12 Ps, 94.4. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 23 

magnify the excellence of their divine Artist and eternal 
Craftsman. What artist is not indebted to Him? 'Who gave 
to women the knowledge of weaving or the understanding 
of embroidery?' 13 However, I who am unable to compre- 
hend the excellence of His majesty and His art do not en- 
trust myself to theoretical weights and measures. Rather, I 
believe that all things depend on His will, which is the 
foundation of the universe and because of which the world 
endures up to the present. 

For this belief one may find authority also in the words of 
the Apostle. It is written: 'For creation was made subject 
to vanity not by its own will, but by reason of him who 
made it subject in hope/ because creation itself will also be 
delivered from its slavery to corruption when the grace of 
divine reward will shine forth. 14 

(23) Why should I enumerate the theories which philo- 
sophers in their discussions have woven concerning the 
nature and composition of the substance of the heavens? 

While some maintain that the heavens are composed of 
the four elements, others assign the formation of the heavens 
to what is called a fifth nature of a new body. They con- 
ceive this body to be ethereal and unmixed with fire, air, 
water or earth, whereas the elements of this world have their 
own special course and customary motion according to 
nature, the heavier elements sinking downward; the light 
and rare elements rising upwards. Each of these elements 
has, in fact, its own proper motion. However, in the circular 
quality of a sphere these elements are confused and lose the 
impulse of their course, inasmuch as a sphere is turned 
around in its orb and hence the elements above change 
place with the elements beneath and vice-versa. And where 
these movements have undergone change in accordance with 

13 Cf. Job 38.36 (Septuagint) . 

14 Rom. 8.20; d. 8,21. 



24 SAINT AMBROSE 

nature, they state that by necessity the quality of the sub- 
stances therein usually suffers a corresponding change. Well, 
then, should we defend the theory of an ethereal body, lest 
the heavens appear subject to corruption? 

What is composed of corruptible elements, for example, 
must of necessity undergo dissolution. This is seen from the 
fact that these elements are of different nature and cannot 
have a simple and unalterable motion, since a diverse move- 
ment of the elements leads to discord. There cannot be, in 
fact, one motion appropriate to and in accord with elements 
that are opposite; what is suitable to the lighter elements 
does not befit the weightier one. Accordingly, where there 
is a necessary motion of the heavens upwards, this is weighed 
down by the terrestial elements. On the other hand, when 
there is an impulse to a downward motion, there is fiery 
opposition from the fiery element, for it is being forced 
downward contrary to its usual course. Everything which is 
impelled in a contrary direction does not comply with its na- 
ture. Rather, it is quickly dissolved by necessity and is broken 
up into those parts out of which it seems to be composed, 
each part returning respectively to its own peculiar place. 
For this reason, other philosophers, noting that these elements 
are unstable, have been led to believe that the substance of 
the heavens and of the stars is ethereal. They introduced 
what they called a fifth corporeal nature, which they thought 
was sufficient to give an enduring permanency to the sub- 
stance of the heavens. 15 

(24) But this opinion could not withstand the words of 
the Prophet, which the divine majesty of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, our God, has confinned in the Gospel. For David has 
said: 'In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundest the earth 
and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish 
but thou remainest, and all of them shall grow old as a 

15 See W. Turner, History of Philosophy (Boston 1903) 145. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 25 

garment. And as vesture thou shalt change them and they 
shall be changed. But thou art always the selfsame and thy 
years shall not fail. 516 To such a degree did the Lord confirm 
this that He said: 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but 
my words will not pass away. 517 

They labor to no purpose who, in order to claim per- 
petuity for the heavens, have thought it best to introduce 
the so-called fifth ethereal body, although they can see, as 
well as I can, that, if an entirely dissimilar part is attached 
to a body, it usually gives that body a defect rather than 
otherwise. At the same time, take note that the Prophet 
David, in mentioning the earth first and after that the 
heavens, believed that the work of the Lord should be 
made manifest. When he said: 'He spoke and they were 
made,' 38 it is of no consequence what you assert first, since 
both were done at the same time, in order to preclude the 
idea that the heavens may appear to have been given the 
priority in the divine substance, so as to be considered of 
more importance by right of primogeniture in the order of 
created things. 

Accordingly, let us leave these men to their contentions, 
men who contradict themselves by their mutual disputes. 
Sufficient for our salvation is not disputatious controversy 
but doctrine not the cleverness of argumentation, but 
fidelity of the mind that we may serve, not a creature, 
but our Creator, who is God, blessed for all ages. 

16 Ps. 101.26-28. 

17 Matt. 24.35. 

18 Ps. 148.5. 



26 SAINT AMBROSE 

THE SECOND HOMILY 

Chapter 7 

(25) 'And the earth was void and without forms/ 1 The 
good architect lays the foundation first, and afterwards, 
when the foundation has been laid, plots the various parts 
of the building, one after the other, and then adds thereto 
the ornamentation. When the foundation of the earth has 
been laid and the substance of the heavens stabilized 
these two are, as it were, the hinges of the universe he 
added: 'And the earth was void and without form. 3 What 
is the meaning of the word 'was'? Perhaps that men may 
not extend their hypothesis to refer to something without 
end and without beginning and say: See how matter, the 
so-called OXr) of the philosophers, did not have a beginning 
according even to the divine Scriptures. However, to those 
who hold this belief you will reply that it is written: 'And 
Cain was a husbandman. 3 And concerning him who was 
called Jubalj Scripture states: 'He was father of them who 
played upon the psalter and the cithern.' 2 Also: 'There was 
a man in the land of Austide whose name was Job.' 3 Let 
them cease, therefore, to raise questions on the meaning of 
the word, especially since Moses had already asserted: 'God 
created the earth.' It 'was' therefore from the fact that it 
was 'created.' 

If they say that it was without beginning, maintaining 
that not only God, but also O^T| ? had no beginning, let them 
give a clear answer to the question: Where, indeed, was it? 
If it was in some place, then the place, too, is asserted to 

1 Gen. 1.2. 

2 Gen. 4.2,21. 

3 Job 1.1. (Septuagint) . 



six DAYS OF CREATION: ONE 27 

have been without a beginning, in which place was the 
material of the universe, which according to them had no 
beginning. But, if it seems absurd to think of a place, then 
perhaps we ought to imagine a flying earth, which, lacking 
a foundation, was suspended 'by the oarage of its wings. 54 
Whence, therefore, can we lay hold of wings for it, unless, 
perchance, we were to interpret and apply thereto the words 
of the Prophet: 'From the wings of the earth we have heard 
prodigies,' and 'Woe to the land to the oarage of ships.' 5 

But, following this interpretation, in what air did the 
earth fly? It could not fly without air. Yet air could not 
yet have existed, because without material for the world no 
distinction of the elements had been made, since up to this 
point the elements had not been created. Where, then, was 
this material supported 'by the oarage of wings'? It was not 
in the air, because the air is a body of the world. The 
Scriptures teach us that air is a body, because 'when an 
arrow is shot at a mark, 5 aimed at by the bowman, 'the air 
presently cometh together again. 56 

Where, therefore, was the OXr| [material]? Are you to 
suppose by some notion that it was God? God, a spirit most 
pure and incomprehensible, with a nature that is invisible 
and incorruptible, who 'dwells in light inaccessible/ 7 was 
therefore the place of the material of the world? And was 
God a' part of this world, of which not even the meanest 
of the servants of God have a part, as we are told in the 
Scriptures: 'They are not of this world, even as I am not 
of the world. 38 

(26) How, then, have things visible associated themselves 
with the invisible and how has that which is disorganized 

4 Virgil, Aeneid 1.301. 

5 Isa. 24.16; 18.1 (Septuagint) . 

6 Wisd. 5.12. 

7 1 Tim. 6.16. 

8 John 17.16. 



28 SAINT AMBROSE 

been linked with Him who has bestowed order and beauty 
on all things? Unless, perchance, they believe that the earth 
was invisible of itself in its substance, because it had been 
said: 'And the earth was invisible/ Or they might hold that 
the earth was invisible for the reason that when covered 
by water it could not be seen by mortal eyes, just as much 
as that which lies in deep water escapes the notice of our 
sharpest eyes. Nothing, in fact, is invisible to God, but 
something created in this world has, in this instance, been 
thought to be invisible to him by one who, too, is created. 

Invisible, also, was the earth, because the light which 
illumined the world did not as yet exist, nor did the sun. 
The luminaries of the sky were, in fact, created later. But, 
if the rays of the sun frequently illuminate even that which 
is covered by water and reveal by the brilliance of its light 
things immersed in the depths, who would doubt that He 
can see what is invisible in the deep? Unless, perchance, 
we are to hold that the earth was invisible, because the 
earth was not yet visited by the Word and protection of 
God the earth which did not yet contain man, for whose 
sake the Lord looked down upon the earth, as it is written: 
'The Lord hath looked down upon the children of men, to 
see if there be any that understand and seek God. 1 And 
elsewhere He says: 'Thou hast caused judgment to be hurled 
from heaven: the earth trembled and was still.' 9 And justly 
is the earth called invisible, because it was without order, 
not having as yet received from its Creator its appropriate 
form and beauty. 

(27) And perhaps they may say: Why did not God, in 
accordance with the words, 'He spoke and they were 
made,' 10 grant to the elements at the same time as they 
arose their appropriate adornments, as if He, at the moment 

9 Ps. 13.2; 75.9. 
10 Ps. 148.5. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 29 

of creation, were unable to cause the heavens immediately 
to gleam with studded stars and the earth to be clothed 
with flowers and fruit? That could very well have happened. 
Yet Scripture points out that things were first created and 
afterwards put in order, lest it be supposed that they were 
not actually created and that they had no beginning, just 
as if the nature of things had been, as it were, generated 
from the beginning and did not appear to be something 
added afterwards. 'And the earth was without form/ we 
read, yet these same philosophers accord to it the privileges 
of immortality which they grant God. What would they say 
if its beauty shone forth from the beginning? The earth is 
described as immersed in water, condemned, as it were, to 
a shipwreck in its own first principles. Yet, some do not 
believe that the earth was made. What, then, if it lay claim 
to ornament from the moment of its creation? 

Add to this the fact that God willed it that we be imitators 
of Himself, so that we first make something and afterwards 
beautify it. We would run the danger of attempting two 
projects at one time and accomplishing neither. And our 
faith grows strong step by step. For that reason, God created 
first and afterwards beautified, in order that we may believe 
that He who made and He who adorned were one and the 
same person. Otherwise, we might suppose that one adorned 
and that another performed the act of creation, whereas the 
same person achieved both, creating first and afterwards 
adorning, in order that one act might be believed as a result 
of the other. 

You find in the Gospel clear testimony on this subject. 
For the Lord, when proposing to raise Lazarus to life, first 
ordered the Jews to remove the stone from the sepulcher, 
in order that, on seeing him dead, they might believe after- 
wards that he had risen from the dead. Next, He called 
Lazarus by name, and he arose and came forth with his 



30 SAINT AMBROSE 

hands and feet bound. 11 Could not He who was able to 
restore the dead to life also remove the stone? And could 
not He who was able to restore the dead man to life also set 
him free from his bonds? Could not He who granted Lazarus 
power to walk with his feet still bound also render it 
possible for him to come forth with his fetters already 
broken? Of course, we see that He wished to point out first 
that the man was dead, so that they might believe with 
their own eyes. The next step was to raise him from the dead 
and the third to bid them unbind with their own hands the 
mortuary bands. By this process faith might be engendered 
in the hearts of the incredulous and belief come to life 
gradually, step by step. 



Chapter 8 

(28) God created first, therefore, heaven and earth, but 
He did not will them to be perpetual; rather, they subserve 
the final end of our corruptible nature. Hence, in the book 
of Isaias He says: 'Lift up your eyes to heaven and look 
down on the earth beneath: for the heavens have the com- 
pactness of smoke and the earth shall be worn away like a 
garment.' 1 This is the earth which before was unformed. 
The seas were not yet confined within their limits and the 
earth was inundated by a deep flood. Observe that even now 
the earth has become unsightly with marshy mire and is not 
subject to the plough 2 where water has everywhere covered 
the land. The land was, therefore, unformed, since it was 
as yet unploughed by the industrious attentions of the farmer, 

H Of. John 11. 39-44. 

1 Isa. 5L6. 

2 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 2,223. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 3 1 

for the cultivator had still to appear. It was unformed 
because it was devoid of growing plants. The banks of 
streams lacked their grassy slopes; the land was not shady 
with groves or productive in fruits of the earth. The over- 
hanging brows of the mountains did not produce shade; 
flowers did not as yet give forth odors; still unknown were 
the delights of the vineyard. Correctly, then, was the land 
called unformed which was devoid of ornament and which 
did not present to view the linked rows of budding vine 
shoots. God wished to show us that the world itself would 
have no attraction unless a husbandman had improved it 
with varied culture. The very heavens, when seen covered 
with clouds, often inspire men with dread fear and with 
sadness of heart. The earth, when saturated with rain, 
arouses our aversion. Who is not moved to fright by the 
sight of stormy seas? Most admirable is the aspect of created 
things. But what would they have been without light, what 
would they have been without heat and without the gathering 
together of waters, in which element some have supposed 
that this universe of ours, when once immersed, had its 
primal origin. Take away the sun from the earth; take away 
the round spheres of stars from the sky every object is then 
shrouded in dread darkness. Thus it was before the Lord 
poured light into this world. 

And for that reason Scripture says: 'Darkness was over 
the abyss.' 3 There was darkness because the brilliance of light 
was absent; there was darkness because the air itself was 
dark. Water itself beneath a cloud is dark because 'dark are 
the waters in the clouds of air.' 4 There was, therefore, dark- 
ness over the abyss of waters. I am not of the opinion that by 
darkness are to be understood the powers of evil, in that their 
wickedness was brought about by God. The reason is, of 

3 Gen. 1.2. 

4 Ps. 17.12. 



32 SAINT AMBROSE 

course, that evil is not a substance, but an accident and that 
it is a deviation from the goodness of nature. 

(29) Accordingly, a discussion of the question of evil in 
the constitution of the world should be laid aside for the 
moment, lest we seem to mingle that which is depraved with 
the work that is divine and with the beauty of the created. 
Especially should this be so for the reason that Scripture 
adds: 'And the spirit of God moved over the waters*' 5 
Although some consider this spirit as air, others think of it 
as the vital breath of the air which we take in and emit. 
However, in agreement with the saints and the faithful we 
consider this to be the Holy Spirit, so that the operation of 
the Holy Trinity clearly shines forth in the constitution of 
the world. Preceded by the statement that 'In the beginning 
God created heaven and earth, 5 that is, God created it in 
Christ or the Son of God had, as God, created it or God 
created it through the Son, since 'all things were made 
through him and without him was made nothing that was 
made.' 6 There was still to come the plenitude of the 
operation in the Spirit, as it is written : 'By the word of the 
Lord the heavens were established and all the power of them 
by the spirit of his mouth. 37 As we are instructed in the psalm 
concerning the work of the Word 3 which is the work of God, 
and on the power which the Holy Spirit bestowed, so is 
echoed here the prophetic oracle, namely, that God spoke' 
and 'God created' and 'the Spirit of God moved over the 
waters.' While adorning the firmament of the heavens, the 
Spirit fittingly moved over the earth, destined to bear fruit, 
because by the aid of the Spirit it held the seeds of new birth 
which were to germinate according to the words of the 
Prophet: 'Send forth thy Spirit and they shall be created 

5 Gen. 1.2. 

6 John 1.3. 

7 *Ps. 32.6. 



six DAYS or CREATION: ONE 33 

and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.' 8 Finally, the 
Syriac text, which is close to the Hebrew and agrees with it 
in word for the most part, expresses it in this fashion: 'And 
the Spirit of God brooded over the waters/ that is, gave 
life, in order to help the birth of new creatures and by 
cherishing them give them the breath of life. For the Holy 
Spirit, too, is called Creator, as we read in Job: The divine 
Spirit which made me.' 9 

If, therefore, the Holy Spirit moved over the waters, there 
could not exist, just where the Spirit claimed such honor, 
the darkness of forces which are contrary to it. But if, as 
some would have it, we are to interpret 'Spirit' as 'air, 5 let 
these people answer the question: How did the Scripture 
speak of the 'Spirit of God,' when it would have been 
sufficient to mention simply 'Spirit'? 

(30) These would have it, then, that first the four 
elements were generated by the Lord our God that is, 
heaven, earth, sea, and air for the reason that fire and air 
are the causes of things, while earth and water furnish the 
material from which are derived the beauty and form of the 
world. Where, therefore, could the darkness of the spirits 
of evil find a place, when the world has vested itself with 
the beauty of this august figure? Are we to hold that God 
at the same time created evil? But evil arose from us, and 
was not made by a Creator God. It is produced by the 
lightness of our morals; it has no prior right over any 
created thing, nor has it the dignity of a natural substance. 
It is a fault due to our mutability and is an error due to our 
fall. God desires it to be eradicated from the souls of each 
and everyone. How, then, could He have generated it? 
The Prophet cries out: 'Cease to do perversely.' 10 And 

8 Ps. 103.30. 

9 Job 33.4. 
10 Isa. 1.16. 



34 SAINT AMBROSE 

holy David has stated it with definiteness : 'Turn away from 
evil and do good.' 11 How, then, can we assign to God the 
beginning of evil? 

But this is the fatal theory of those who thought the 
Church should be thrown into confusion. From this are 
derived the sect of Marcio, of Valentinus; 12 hence, too, that 
deadly pest of the Manichaeans which attempted to bring 
contagion to the minds of the faithful Why do we search 
of ourselves to see in the light of life the darkness of death? 
Divine Scripture confers salvation on us and is fragrant with 
the perfume of life, so that he who reads may acquire 
sweetness and not rush into danger to his own destruction. 
Read with simplicity, man; I would not encourage you, a 
misdirected interpreter, to dig up meanings for yourself. 
The language is simple: 'God created heaven and earth.* 
He created what was not, not what was. And the earth was 
invisible, because water flowed over it and covered it. 
Darkness was diffused over it, because there was not yet the 
light of day, or the rays of the sun which can reveal even 
what lies hid beneath the waters. 

Why, then, do they say that God created evil, although 
from principles contrary and opposed nothing whatsoever 
is generated? Light does not generate death nor does light 
give birth to darkness. And the processes of generation are 
not like the mutability of human emotions. The latter change 
from one opposite principle to another according to the 
various questions at issue. The former are not deflected from 
one point to its opposite, but, being created either by their 
authors or by causes of the same nature, they stand in a 
similar relationship to their Creator. 

(31) What, then, are we to say? If evil has no beginning, 

11 Ps. 33.15. 

12 See P. de Labriolle, Histoire de la literature latine chrltimne (Paris 
1920) 120. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 35 

as if uncreated or not made by God, from what source did 
nature derive it? Because no rational being has denied that 
evil exists in a world like this in which accident and death 
are so frequent. Yet from what we have already said we can 
gather that evil is not a living substance, but is a deviation 
of mind and soul away from the path of true virtue, a 
deviation which frequently steals upon the souls of the un- 
aware. The greater danger is not, therefore, from what is 
external to us, but from our own selves. Our adversary is 
within us, within us is the author of error, locked, I say, 
within our very selves. Look closely on your intentions; 
explore the disposition of your mind; set up guards to watch 
over the thoughts of your mind and the cupidities of your 
heart. You yourself are the cause of your wickedness; you 
yourself are the leader of your own crimes and the instigator 
of your own misdeeds. Why do you summon an alien nature 
to furnish an excuse for your sins? 

Would that you did not give rein to yourself; would that 
you did not rush recklessly on; would that neither by immod- 
erate desires nor through wrath or cupidity you involved 
yourself in bonds which trap us like so many nets. And 
surely it is in our power to moderate our desires; to curb our 
anger; to check our evil passions. It is also within our power 
to give ourselves up to luxurious living; to add fire to our 
lusts; to stir up the fires of our anger or lend our ears to one 
who ministers to them; to be unduly puffed up by pride; to 
allow ourselves to be carried away by acts of cruelty rather 
than that we should bend ourselves to humble deeds and find 
delight in acts of kindliness. 

Why, then, man, do you accuse nature? Nature has old 
age and illness which serve as so many impediments to our 
lives. But old age becomes sweeter and more useful by its 
wise counsels and characters. It becomes more ready to face 
inevitable death with constancy and becomes more heroic 



36 SAINT AMBROSE 

in quelling lusts of the flesh/ 3 Infirmity of the body, too, is 
conducive to sobriety of mind. Hence the Apostle says: 
'When I am weak, then am I strong/ Accordingly, he gloried 
not in his virtues but in his infirmities. A divine saying also 
flashes forth from that salutary oracle: 'Strength is made 
perfect in weakness/ 14 We ought to guard ourselves against 
the 'sins of youth' 15 which arise from free acts of our will, 
and we should avoid the irrational passions of the body. Let 
us not search outside of ourselves or attribute to others the 
causes of that of which we ourselves are sole masters. Let us, 
rather, recognize these causes as belonging to us alone. We 
ought to attribute to ourselves the choice of an evil which we 
are unable to do without consent of the will rather than 
ascribe the same to others. In the courts of the world guilt 
so is imputed and punishment meted out, not to those 
compelled to crime by necessity, but to those who have acted 
voluntarily. It is true that the person who in a rage slays 
another is subject to the penalty of death. Why, even accord- 
ing to the decree of the divine law itself, a person who in- 
advertently kills another may expect impunity by accepting 
the possibility of exile, if he wishes to escape punishment. 16 
This, then, may be stated on the question of what in the 
real sense of the word seems to be evil. Wrong does not exist 
except when the mind and conscience are implicated and 
bound up with the guilt. Moreover, no intelligent person 
would call poverty, disgrace, or death an evil. He would 
not list them in the category of evils, because they are not 
the opposite of those goods held in the highest esteem- 
goods which seem to fall to our lot either from causes which 
stem from nature or from the favorable circumstance of our 
lives. 



13 Cf. Cicero, De senectute 14.47. 

14 2 Cor. 12.10,9. 

15 Ps. 24.7. 

16 Cf. Num. 35.22-25. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 37 

(32) Not without a purpose have we introduced this 
digression in order to prove that the phrase 'darkness and 
the abyss' should be taken in literal sense. In fact, the 
darkness under discussion comes especially from the shadow 
cast from the heavens, since every body produces a shadow 
by which it casts a shade either on what is near by or on 
what is beneath it, and above it casts a shadow on those 
objects which it seems to cover or include. The firmament of 
the heavens does include the earth, because, as we have 
shown above, heaven stretches itself out like a vault. There- 
fore, darkness was not an original substance, but the mist 
of darkness accompanied like a shadow the body of the 
world. Accordingly, at the instant that the world arose at the 
divine command there was enclosed within it a shadow. 
Just as if a person in the midst of a plain illumined by the 
midday sun were, at the spur of the moment, to hedge some 
spot and cover it with thick leafy branches, would not his hut 
with its rude, stage-like background become rather all the 
more obscure within in contrast to the exterior, so brilliantly 
illuminated? 17 Or why was a place closed on all sides called 
a cave unless it is that it is a place obscured by darkness and 
forbidding because of its blackness? 18 

This darkness then was over the abyss of waters. For the 
Gospel teaches us that the abyss is a mass of deep waters, 
where, in fact, the demons entreated the Saviour 'not to 
command them to depart into the abyss.' But He who taught 
that the will of the demons should not be obeyed caused 
them to enter into the bodies of swine. And the herd of swine 
rushed down the cliff into the pool, so that the demons did 
not escape what they rebelled against, but were, as they 

17 Of. Virgil, Aeneid 1.164,165, and the note of Servius (editio Haruar- 
diana 1946, 95) on scaena ('stage') . 

18 Antrumatro situ. 



38 SAINT AMBROSE 

deserved, submerged in the depths. 19 Unformed, therefore, 
was the appearance and shape of this world. 



Chapter 9 

(33) 'And the Spirit of God,' he said, 'moved over the 
waters. And God said: Be light made/ 1 Rightly, therefore, 
was the Spirit of God sent forth where the divine operation 
was to begin. He said: 'Be light made.' Whence should the 
voice of God in Scripture begin, if not with light? Whence 
should the adornment of the world take its beginning, if not 
from light? 

There would be no purpose in the world if it were not 
seen. In fact, God Himself was in the light, because He 
'dwells in light inaccessible/ and He 'was the true light that 
enlightens every man who comes into this world.' 2 But He 
wishes the light to be such as might be perceived by mortal 
eyes. The person who desires to erect a house as a fitting 
habitation for the head of a family determines first how it 
may receive light abundantly before he lays the foundation, 
This is the first requisite. If this is lacking, the whole house 
is without beauty and is uninhabitable. It is light which sets 
off the other beautiful objects in the house, 

'Let light be made,' He said. When the word light 5 is 
used, it is not intended to mean merely the preparation for 
performance; rather, it is the splendor of the operation itself 
in action. The Fabricator of nature uttered the word light 5 
and also created it. The Word of God is His wOl; the work 
of God is nature. He created light and illumined the dark- 

19 Cl Luke 8.31,52. 

1 Gen. 1.2,3. 

2 1 Tim. 6.16; John 1.9. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 39 

ness. 'And God said, be light made, and light was made. 53 
He did not speak in order that action should follow; rather, 
the action was completed with the Word. Hence, David 
appropriately uttered the statement, 'He spoke and they 
were made,' 4 because the fulfillment of the act accompanied 
the Word. 

God, therefore, is the Author of light and the place and 
cause of darkness is the world. But the good Author uttered 
the word 'light' so that He might reveal the world by in- 
fusing brightness therein and thus make its aspect beautiful. 
Suddenly, then, the air became bright and darkness shrank 
in terror from the brilliance of the novel brightness. The 
brilliance of the light which suddenly permeated the whole 
universe overwhelmed the darkness and, as it were, plunged 
it into the abyss. Fittingly, therefore, and appropriately was it 
said: 'Light was made.' For, just as light quickly illuminated 
the heavens, the earth, and the seas, and in a moment, 
without our being aware of it, when the land is unveiled at 
the splendor of dawn, this light is perceived as it encompasses 
us, in such a manner should its birth be explained. Why do 
we marvel at the fact that God simply said 'light' and 
flashed forth brilliance on a darkling world, when we know 
that, if a person immersed in water should emit oil from 
his mouth, all that which is hidden in the deep is made 
clearer? 

God did not speak as one would utter a sound through 
the vocal organs or as a movement of the tongue might 
produce an exhortation from heaven or as a sound of words 
might strike this air of ours. His purpose was to reveal the 
knowledge of His will by the effects of His work. 

3 Gen. 1.3. 

4 Ps. 148.5. 



40 SAINT AMBROSE 

(34) 'And He divided the light from the darkness and 
God saw the light that it was good.' 5 He spoke, and no one 
heard the sound of His voice. He divided, and no one noticed 
the effort expended in His work. He saw, and no one 
observed the glance of His eyes. 'And God saw/ he says, 
'the light that it was good.' He did not see that of which He 
had no knowledge, nor did He approve what He before had 
neither known nor seen. It is a fitting quality of good works 
that they need no one to applaud them outside of oneself, 
but when they are seen give evidence of their own intrinsic 
value. It is more important that one be approved in the 
sight of men rather than be lauded in their conversation, 
since such a person relies on his own testimony and not on 
the recommendations of others. 

But if in our own experience we are able to perceive by 
means of our eyes, by the aid of which the beauty of natural 
objects is immediately appreciated, how much more is this 
true in the case of God! He sees all things which He 
approves and approves of all things which He sees, accord- 
ing to the Scriptures: 'The eyes of the Lord are upon the 
just.' 6 The nature of light is of such a kind that its value 
does not rest in number or measurement or weight as is the 
case with other things. Its whole value comes from its 
appearance. Accordingly, Scripture fittingly described the 
nature of light, which pleases us when seen, inasmuch as it 
furnishes us with the ability to see. Not undeservingly was 
light able to find as its eulogist one who first justly praised 
it, since it was also responsible for making the other objects 
in the world worthy of commendation. God, therefore, saw 
the light and illumined it with His countenance and saw 
that it was good. And this is a conviction not only on the 
part of God, but of all mankind. And so the value of light 

5 Gen. 1.4. 

6 Ps. 33.16. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: ONE 41 

is conceded to be great, not only because of its splendor, but 
also on account of its usefulness. For this reason there was 
a division made between light and darkness, so that, when 
separated, there would seem to be no grounds for confusing 
the nature of light and the nature of darkness. 

(35) 'And God called the light, day, and the darkness, 
night,' 7 in order that day and night might be distinguished 
even in name. For this reason we notice that the rising of 
light rather than that of the sun seems to open the day. The 
beginning of day closes up night's exit and a definite time 
limit and an established boundary seem to have been pre- 
scribed for night and day. The sun gives the day its brilliance; 
the light , its existence. The sky is often overlaid with clouds, 
so that the sun is hidden and its rays are not seen. Still, the 
presence of light points to the fact that it is day and that 
darkness has vanished. 



Chapter 10 

(36) 'And there was made evening and morning, one 
day.' 1 Some inquire why Scripture first mentions evening 
and after that, morning? Would not this appear to mean 
that night came before day? They do not notice that this is 
preceded by a reference to day: 'And God called light, day, 
and the darkness, night, 3 and then, again, because the 
evening is the termination of day and morning is the termin- 
ation of night. 

Therefore, in order to give preference and primacy to the 
day of creation, Scripture first indicated the end of a day, 
which night was soon to follow, and then it added the 

7 Gen. 1.5. 
1 Gen. 1.5. 



42 SAINT AMBROSE 

termination of night. There is a further reason why Scrip- 
ture could not prefer night to day: It included in the term 
'day' the space of time for both day and night and bestowed 
on that term the prestige, as it were, of a principal name. 
And this usage is found in Scripture to confer a name on the 
more important element. This is proved by numerous ex- 
amples, for Jacob has said also: The days of my life have 
been short and wretched/ 2 And again: 'All the days of my 
life,' 3 And David set down: The days of my years 5 ; 4 he did 
not say also 'the night.' Hence we note that those events 
which are now recorded in the form of history have estab- 
lished for themselves a precedent for the relation of future 
events. 

The beginning of the day rests on God's word: { Be light 
made, and light was made. 35 The end of day is the evening. 
Now, the succeeding day follows after the termination of 
night. The thought of God is clear. First He called light 'day' 
and next He called darkness 'night. 3 

(37) In notable fashion has Scripture spoken of a 'day/ 
not the 'first day, 3 Because a second, then a third, day, and 
finally the remaining days were to follow, a 'first day' could 
have been mentioned, following in this way the natural 
order. 6 But Scripture established a law that twenty-four 
hours, including both day and night, should be given the 
name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day 
is twenty-four hours in extent. In such fashion, also, is the 
generation of men reckoned which is understood to include 
that of women, also. Because what is secondary is bound up 
with what is primary, the nights in this reckoning are con- 
sidered to be component parts of the days that are counted. 

2 Gen. 47,9. 

3 Ps. 22.6. 

4 Ps. 89.10. 

5 Gen. 1.5. 

6 Cf. Philo, De opificio mundi 5 (Philonis opem ed. JL Cohn, I) . 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : ONE 43 

Therefore, just as there is a single revolution of time, so there 
is but one day. There are many who call even a week one 
day, because it returns to itself, just as one days does, and 
one might say seven times revolves back on itself. This is the 
form of a circle, to begin with itself and to return to itself. 
Hence, Scripture speaks at times of an age of the world. 
Although in other passages there is a mention of an age, 
there Scripture seems to mean the diversities in public and 
private affairs: Tor the day of the Lord is great and 
glorious.' 7 And elsewhere: 'What avail is it to you to seek 
the day of the Lord.' 8 And here is meant darkness and not 
light, for it is clear that that day when innocence will gleam 
forth and guilt be tormented is dark to those who are con- 
scious of evil deeds and unworthy acts. Moreover, Scripture 
teaches us that the everlasting day of eternal reward is to be 
one in which there is no interchange or intermission of day 
and night. 

(38) Fittingly, then, in calling one day the interchange 
of both times Scripture closes this period with morning, so 
that we are taught that day begins with light and in light 
comes to an end. This is true because day and night could 
not be considered as a unit of time unless that time has been 
completely traversed. Hence, 'let us walk becomingly as in 
the day' and let us lay aside the works of darkness. 59 We 
know that night is passed in sleep and forgetfulness so that 
the body may find rest. Night is not designed for the per- 
formance of any task or of any transaction. Let us not be 
sharers in feasting and drunkenness, in chambering and im- 
modesty. Let us not say: Darkness and walls cover us and 
who knows if the Most High will see us, 10 But let there be 

7 Joel 2.11. 

8 Amos 5.18. 

,9 Rom. 13.12,13. 
10 Cf. Eccli. 23.26. 



44 SAINT AMBROSE 

in us a love of light and an esteem of goodness, so that, as if 
walking in daylight, we may desire that our works shine in 
the presence of God. To Him be honor, praise, glory, and 
power, together with our Lord Jesus Christ and with the 
Holy Spirit, from eternity and now and always, for ever and 
ever. Amen. 11 

11 Cf. MatL 5J6. 




BOOK TWO: THE SECOND DAY 



THE THIRD HOMILY 



Chapter 1 

IE HAVE FINISHED as best we could our discussion of 
the first day or, rather, of one day, in order to 
keep to the phrase preferred by the inspired book. 
On this day, by the work of the omnipotent God, and the 
Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Spirit, we know 
that the heavens were founded, the earth was created, the 
waters and the air were sent forth around us, and a separation 
was made between light and darkness. 

Who, therefore, does not marvel at the fact that a world 
formed of dissimilar elements should rise to the level of 
unity in one body, that this body should combine by in- 
dissoluble laws of concord and love to link together and 
form a union of such discordant elements? Furthermore, 
who does not marvel that these elements so naturally separate 
should be tied together in the bonds of unity and peace as 
if by an indivisible compact? Or who in a moment of weak- 

45 



46 SAINT AMBROSE 

ness would, on beholding this, question the possibilities of 
order or plans? All these elements a divine power incom- 
prehensible to human minds and incapable of being expressed 
in our language has by the might of His will woven closely 
together. 

( 2 ) God, therefore, created the heavens and the earth and 
those things which He as Author has ordained to exist, not 
just as a designer of their form but as a Creator of their 
nature. How, in fact, can the creative power of God which 
is impassive and the nature of matter which is passive form 
an agreement together, as if one borrowed from the other 
what was lacking in each? If matter is uncreated, then God 
is without the power to create matter and must borrow 
from matter what is a conditional basis for His work. If, 
however, matter is unformed, it surely is remarkable that 
such material, co-eternal with God, which has not received 
from the Creator its substance, but has itself possessed it in 
timeless existence, has been unable to bestow beauty on 
itself. The Creator of all things, therefore, would have found 
ready for His work more things than He contributed to it. 
He would have found material on which to work and would 
have merely bestowed the form which would confer beauty 
on what has already been found. 

Hence, such a day should be distinguished from the others 
as 'one day,' and should not be compared with other days as 
*the first day,' for on it the foundations of all things were 
laid and there began to come into existence the causes of all 
things on which the substance of this world and of the 
entire visible creation is based. Wherefore, our discourse can. 
now proceed to the wonderful works of the second day* The 
importance of these works should not be rated by what we 
have achieved in our discussion, but should, in accordance 
with Scripture, be referred to the praise of the Creator. 

(3) I bid you, therefore, be considerate enough to regard 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 47 

in a natural sense our plausible discourse and to weigh our 
statements in simplicity of mind and with attentive intellect, 
not following the traditions of philosophy nor those who 
gather the semblance of truth in the Vain deceit 51 of the arts 
of persuasion, but in accordance with the rule of truth, 
which is set forth in the inspired words of God and is 
poured into the hearts of the faithful by the contemplation 
of such sublimity. For it is written: 'Strengthen thou me in 
thy words. 3 The wicked have told me fables but not as thy 
law, O Lord. All thy statutes are truth.' 2 Therefore, not the 
nature of the elements, but Christ Himself, who created the 
world in the abundance and plenitude of His divinity, should 
be our standard in the examination of what was created 
and in the question as to what natural power is able to 
achieve. The people who beheld with their own eyes the 
miracles related in the Gospel of the healing of the leper 
and that of giving sight to the blind did not regard these 
as a medical process, but rather, marveling at the power of 
the Lord, 'gave praise to God,' as it is written. 3 Moses did 
not follow the calculations of the Egyptians and the con- 
junctions of the stars and the relations of the elements when 
he stretched out his hand to divide the Red Sea, but was 
complying with the commands of divine power. Hence, he 
says himself: Thy right hand, O Lord, is magnified in 
strength. Thy right hand, O Lord, hath broken the enemy.' 4 
To Him, therefore, ye faithful people, lift up your mind 
and bring to Him all your heart. God does not see as man 
does: God sees with His mind; man sees with his countenance. 
Therefore, man does not see as God does. Give ear to what 
God saw and what He praised. Do not, therefore, estimate 

1 Col. 2.8; Eph. 5.6. 

2 Ps. 118.28,85,86. 

3 Matt. 8.2; 9.30; Luke 18.43. 

4 Exod. 15.6. 



48 SAINT AMBROSE 

with your eyes nor weigh with your mind the problem of 
creation. Rather, you should not regard as a subject for 
debate what God saw and approved of. 



Chapter 2 

(4) And God said: 'Let there be a firmament made 
amidst the waters and let it divide the waters from the 
waters, and it was so. 31 Listen to the words of God: 'Let 
there be/ He said. This is the word of a commander, not of 
an adviser. He gives orders to nature and does not comply 
with its power. He does not regard its measurements, nor 
does He examine its weight. His will is the measure of things 
and His word is the completion of the work. 'Let there be 
a firmament made amidst the waters,' He said. Firm is 
everything which God has established. Appropriately enough 
has He stated: 'Let there be a firmament made' before He 
added 'amidst the waters, 3 in order that you might first 
believe that the firmament was made by God's command 
before you would begin to doubt about the problem of the 
fluid nature of water. If the nature of the elements is taken 
into consideration, how it is possible for the firmament to 
be stable between the waters? The one is liquid, the other 
solid; one is active, the other, passive. 'And let it divide the 
waters from the waters/ He said. But water usually mingles, 
not separates. How, then, does. He command what He knows 
to be a contradiction in terms of the first principles of the 
dements? But, since His word is nature's birth, justly there- 
fore does He who gave nature its origin presume to give 
nature its law. 

1 Gen, 1.6. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 49 

(5) But first let us discuss the problem of the nature of 
the firmament, whether it is the same as what God previously 
called heaven or something different? The question also 
arises whether there are two heavens or more. There are 
some who say that there is but one heaven. Moreover, they 
maintain, since there was only one uAi], as they call it, that 
there could not be at hand material for making a second 
heaven. Moreover, since this material had been already 
consumed in the first heaven, there would be nothing left 
over in their opinion which would furnish material for a 
second or third heaven. On the other hand, an opinion that 
there are countless heavens is held by others, 2 who thereby 
furnish an occasion for laughter to some members of their 
own school (contending among themselves even more than 
they do with us), who pretend to prove by mathematical 
means and the law of necessity that another heaven could 
not exist. Again, they maintain that nature could not allow 
that a second or a third such entity should exist and it would 
not be a fitting exercise of power for a Creator to bring into 
existence many heavens. 

And who would not find the crafty and eloquent phrases 
of these men a subject of ridicule? They would not deny 
the human capacity of making more objects of the same kind 
from one and the same material, yet they doubt whether, 
the Creator of all things can make more heavens, of whom 
it is written: c But the Lord made the heavens/ and elsewhere: 
'He hath done all things whatsover he would/ 3 Why is it 
difficult for one whose wishes are acts? Their theory that 
this impossibility exists is, therefore, unsubstantial when they 
treat of God, of whom in truth it is said: 'Nothing is im- 
possible to thee.' 4 

2 Cf. Cicero, Academica 2.55 (Democritus) , 

3 Ps. 95.5; 113,3. 

4 Mark 14.36. 



50 SAINT AMBROSE 

( 6 ) Accordingly, we cannot deny the existence of not only 
a second heaven, but also of a third, since the Apostle attests 
in his writings that he 'was caught up to the third heaven, 35 
David, too, introduced 'Heaven of heavens' into the chorus 
of those who give praise to God. In imitation of him philo- 
sophers introduced the harmonious movement of five con- 
stellations along with the sun and moon, to whose spheres 
or, rather, round bodies they state that all things are con- 
nected. 6 They consider that these bodies, bound together 
and, as it were, linked one with the other, are borne in a 
backward motion and one contrary to the rest of things. 
By the impact and motion of these spheres there is produced 
a tone full of sweetness, the fruit of consummate art and of 
most delightful modulation, inasmuch as the air, torn apart 
by such artful motion, combines in even and melodious 
fashion high and low notes to such a degree that it surpasses 
in sweetness any other musical composition. 

(7) If you should inquire into the truth of this phen- 
omenon and demand that proof be presented to our senses 
and to our hearing, these philosophers are embarrassed. For, 
if what they say were true, how is it possible that we who are 
accustomed to hear lesser sounds do not perceive the impact 
of the movement of the sphere? This takes place, according 
to their theory, when in the course of the sphere's motion 
the celestial sphere, to which the course of the constellations 
is uninterruptedly attached, produces by its swifter motion 
a high tone, while the lunar sphere gives us a deeper tone. 
If, then, we demand a proof of that hypothesis from the 
evidence of our sense of hearing, they report that our ears 
have become deafened and our sense of hearing has become 
dulled because we have become accustomed to that sound 
from the first moment of our birth. And they present an 
illustration from the river Nile, the mightiest of rivers. In that 

5 2 Cor. 12.2. 

6 Pythagoras and his school; cf. Cicero, Somnium Scipionis 6.17. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 5 1 

place where that river flows precipitously from the highest 
mountains into the Cataracts, the noise of the waterfall is so 
great that the ears of the natives are affected to the extent 
that they are said to be deaf. 

But experience itself presents us an easy rebuttal to their 
arguments. We are able to hear thunderbolts produced by 
the collision of clouds; how, then, are we unable to hear the 
revolution of such mighty spheres which, in proportion 
surely to their swifter motion, should produce sounds all the 
more resounding? They maintain, furthermore, that such 
music does not reach the earth. Otherwise, men, captivated 
by the sweetness and charm which that exceedingly swift 
motion of the heavens produces, would from the regions of 
the east as far as the west have abandoned all their occupa- 
tions and labors. Thus, everything here would be in a state 
of inactivity as a result of what might be called the rapture 
of men at the sound of celestial music. But subjects which 
are alien to our purpose and to divine testimony should be 
left to those 'who are outside. 37 We should adhere closely to 
the doctrine laid down by the celestial Scriptures. 



Chapter 3 

(8) Our argument, then, is based on the word of God: 
'Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters and let 
it divide the waters from the waters. 51 And from this arises 
the question whether He calls the firmament the heaven 
which He had already created, concerning which it is written: 
In the beginning God created heaven and earth.' 2 I am not 
unaware of the interpretation which some have held on this 

7 1 Cor. 5.12,13; Col. 4.5; 1 Tim. 3.7. 

1 Gen. 1.6. 

2 Gen. 1.1. 



52 SAINT AMBROSE 

subject, namely, that as the creation at the hands of God and 
the foundation of heaven has been before expressly stated by 
Scripture, so a clearer exposition of the work of creation is 
here given. Whereas in one place a summary of the work, 
as it were, is briefly stated, in the other, the nature of the 
operation is depicted according to the specific aspect of 
things as they appear at the same moment of creation. But 
there is something which needs our consideration: there 
is question of another word for heaven, 'firmament/ and 
there emerges an aspect and condition of more solid char- 
acter, to which is added the person of a co-operating agent. 
For it is written: 'And God divided the waters that were 
under the firmament from those that were above the 
firmament. 33 

(9) And first of all these interpreters wish to destroy the 
profound impressions which frequent reading of the Scrip- 
tures have made in our mind, maintaining that waters can- 
not exist above the heavens. That heavenly sphere, they say, 
is round, with the earth in the middle of it; hence, water 
cannot stay on that circular surface, from which it needs 
must flow easily away, falling from a higher to a lower 
position. For how, they say, can water remain on a sphere 
when the sphere itself revolves? 

This is one of those sophistical arguments of the subtlest 
kind. Grant me an opportunity to reply. If it is not granted, 
there need be no further room for discussion. 

They ask us to concede to them that heaven turns on its 
axis with a swift motion, while the sphere of the earth 
remains motionless, so as to conclude that waters cannot 
stay above the heavens, because the axis of heaven as it 
revolved would cause these to flow off. They wish, in fact, 
that we grant them their premise and that our reply be based 
on their beliefs. In this way they would avoid the question 

3 Gen. 1.7. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: TWO 53 

of the existence of length and breadth in that height and 
depth, 4 a fact which no one can comprehend except Him 
who is filled 'with the fullness of the Godhead, 55 as the 
Apostle says. For who can easily set himself up to be a judge 
of God's work? There exists, therefore, breadth in the very 
heights of heaven. 

To speak of matters within our knowledge, there are a 
great many buildings which are round in the exterior but 
are square-shaped within, and vice-versa. These buildings 
have level places on top, where water usually collects. We 
are led to mention these matters in order to draw the atten- 
tion of these interpreters to the fact that their opinions can 
be confuted by other opinions closer to the truth and that 
they may cease measuring such a mighty work of God in 
terms of human work and merely on an estimate of our own 
capacities. 

(10) We follow the tradition of the Scriptures and we 
value the work by our esteem of the Author, as to what was 
said, who said it, and to whom it was said. 'Let there be a 
firmament made,' He said, 'amidst the waters and let it 
divide the waters from the waters.' 6 From this I learn that 
the firmament is made by a command by which the water 
was to be separated and the water above be divided from 
the water below. What is clearer than this? 

He who commanded the waters to be separated by the 
interposition of the firmament lying between them provided 
also the manner of their remaining in position, once they 
were divided and separated. The word of God gives nature 
its power and an enduring quality to its matter, as long as 
He who established it wishes it to be so, as it is written ; 'He 
hath established them forever and for ages of ages. He hath 
made a decree and it shall not pass away.' And that you may 

4 Cf. Eph. 3.18. 

5 Col. 2.9. 



54 SAINT AMBROSE 

know that He said this concerning these waters which you 
say cannot exist in the higher parts of the heavens, listen 
to the words which precede: 'Praise him, ye heaven of 
heavens, and let all the waters above the heavens praise the 
name of the Lord.' 7 

Did He not speak to you in such a way as to answer your 
objections? Tor he spoke and they were made. He com- 
manded and they were created. He hath established them 
forever and for ages of ages. He hath made a decree and it 
shall not pass away.' 8 Does He not seem to you to be one 
who is fitted to give a law to His work? Here speaks to you a 
God venerable by nature, inestimable in magnitude, in re- 
wards immeasurable, in His works incomprehensible, the 
depth of whose wisdom who can ever strive to measure? 9 
But He speaks to His Son, that is, to His arm; He speaks to 
His power; He speaks to His wisdom, to His justice. And 
the Son acts as one who is powerful; He acts as the power of 
God; He acts as the wisdom of God, as divine justice. Whem 
you hear this, why do you marvel if, by the operation of such 
majesty, water can be held suspended above the celestial 
firmament? 

(11) Reflect on this when dealing with other matters, 
with what is seen by the eyes of men reflect on this if you 
look for an explanation of how the sea divided at the crossing 
of the Jews. This is not a customary act of nature that water 
should separate itself from water and that the waters inter- 
mingling in the midst of the earth should be divided. The 
waves became solid, we are told, and like the waters in the 
firmament they checked their course when they reached 
their unusual boundaries, 10 Could not the Lord have set 

6 Gen. 1.6. 

7 Ps. 148.6,4. 

8 Ps. 148.5,6. 

9 Of. Rom. 11.31 
10 Cf. Exod, 15.8. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 55 

free the Hebrew people in a quite different manner? But He 
wished to show that by taking note of such a spectacle you 
might come to think that what is not even visible to your 
eyes ought to inspire belief. The Jordan, too, inverting its 
course, returned to its source. 11 That water in its course 
should stand still is considered to be unusual. That it should 
flow upwards without any external aid is considered to be 
impossible. But why is it impossible for Him who gave 
strength to the weak, so that they could say: e l can do all 
things in him who strengthens me. 312 

Let them tell us whether, when 'the air thickens into 
cloud, 513 rain is then produced by clouds or whether it is 
collected in the lap of the clouds? We so frequently see 
clouds issuing from the mountains. I ask you: Does the 
water rise from the earth or does the water which is over 
the heavens fall in copious rain? If water rises, it surely is 
against nature that the element which is heavier should be 
borne to a higher place and that it should be carried there 
by air, although this is a lighter element. Or if water is 
whirled by the rapid motion of the entire world system, in 
that case it is absorbed from the lowest sphere and, likewise, 
it is poured forth from the highest. If it does not cease to be 
poured forth, as they claim, surely it does not cease to be 
absorbed, because, if the axis of the heavens is ever in move- 
ment, the water, too, is always being absorbed. If water 
descends, then it is clear that it is continuously above the 
heavens in a position from which it can flow downwards. 

What prevents us, then, from admitting that water is 
suspended above the heavens? How can they say that the 
earth, although it is certainly heavier than water, stays sus- 
pended and immobile in the middle? Following the same 

n Cf. PS. 113.3. 

12 Phil. 4.13. 

13 Virgil, Aeneid 5,20. 



56 SAINT AMBROSE 

principle, they can admit the water which is above the 
heavens does not descend because of the rotation of that 
celestial sphere. Just as the earth is suspended in the void 
and stays immobile in position, its weight being balanced on 
every side, 14 in like manner the water, too, is balanced by 
weights either equal to or greater than that of the earth. For 
the same reason, the sea does not tend to inundate the land 
without a special command to do so. 

(12) When they state again that the glittering sphere of 
heaven revolves with its fiery stars, did not Divine Providence 
necessarily forsee that water more than sufficient to temper 
the heat of the burning axis should exist within the sphere 
of heaven and above it? For the reason that fire makes its 
presence felt everywhere, for the same reason, too, water 
abounded on the earth, lest it be parched by the heat of the 
burning sun and of the twinkling stars and thus delicate 
things be injured at their birth by an unfamiliar warmth. 15 
How great a number of springs, rivers, and lakes irrigate 
the earth, parched, as it is, by some fire within! 16 If, too, 
that interior fire does not give life to them, how could the 
trees or grain germinate or seedling burst forth or, when 
they have sprouted, be brought to maturity? Fire, also, 
frequently issues forth from rocks and from wood itself 
when a tree is being cut down. Fire, therefore, is a necessary 
element in the work of creation in order that things remain 
in due order and arrangement and that the clemency of the 
sky may temper the rigidity of water. In like manner even 
excessive quantities of water are not superfluous, where 
there is danger of one element being consumed by another; 
unless the proportion of both elements is a suitable one, then 

14 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses L12. 

15 Cf. Virgil, Eclogues 6.33-36; vapor for 'warmth' is Lucretian ($.126) . 

16 Cf, Lucretius 5,457466. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 57 

fire may dry up the water, just as water, too, extinguishes 
fire. 

Accordingly, God balanced the universe with weights and 
measures. He has measured even the drops of rain, as we 
read in the book of Job. 17 Knowing that either there would 
be a tendency toward a failure or a dissolution of the 
universe, if one element preponderated over the other, He 
controlled for that reason the extent of each, so that fire 
would not supply more heat, or water more moisture, than 
would lead to the diminution of either under His guidance, 
by which the superfluous was drained off and a sufficiency 
was held in reserve. 

Such great streams of mighty rivers still burst forth from 
the earth. We have the Nile that inundates Egypt with its 
overflowing waters; the Danube which divides the bar- 
barians of the eastern regions from the Roman people, until 
it hides itself in the Black Sea; the Rhine which directs its 
course from a defile in the Alps until it reaches the depths 
of the ocean a notable barricade for the Roman empire 
against savage nations; the Po, a trusty conveyor of mari- 
time produce for the support of Italy; the Rhone, which 
with its rapid current cuts the waters of the Tyrrhenian 
sea, thereby adding to the perils of sailors, according to 
report, because of the struggle for mastery between the 
river currents and the sea waves; and, rising in the northern 
regions and combining in the Caucasus Mountains with 
many other streams, the Phasis River rushes headlong to 
the sea. It would be tedious to enumerate the names of each 
and every river which either flows into our sea or empties 
itself into the ocean. Notwithstanding such an abundance 
of water in the world, the soil in the southern zone for the 
most part is still scorched and reduced to dust by excessive 
heat. The toil of the unhappy farmer is spent in vain, so 

17 Cf. Job 36.27. 



58 SAINT AMBROSE 

much so that, when the wells and streams are dried up, he 
frequently fails to find enough water to sustain life. And 
there will be a time when He will say to the deep : c Be thou 
desolate and I will dry up all the rivers/ 18 as through Isaias 
He announced the future. But before that day established by 
the divine will shall come, no little conflict among them- 
selves is presented by the specific natures of the elements. 
Hence, the world is frequently affected by violent inunda- 
tions or is afflicted by the extremes of heat and aridity, 

(13) Be not concerned, therefore, with the extraordinary 
excess of water in the world; take note, rather, of the force 
exercised by heat and you will not be incredulous. Fire is 
able to absorb much, a fact which ought to be clear to us 
from an experiment. When physicians burn a small candle 
and attach it to the inside of certain types of vases, narrow 
in the spout, rather flat on top and hollow within, how does 
it happen that this heat attracts to itself all the moisture? 
Who, therefore, doubts that the burning aether, glowing with 
mighty heat, would cause everything to be consumed by 
fire if it were not held in check by a law laid down by its 
Author, so that neither rivers nor lakes nor the seas them- 
selves could subdue its strength? And so, water falling from 
above gushes forth generally in such storms of rain that 
rivers and lakes suddenly are filled and the very seas over- 
flow. Hence, we often see the sun, too, veiled in vaporous 
exhalations. This is clear proof that the sun, in order to 
temper its heat, has appropriated to itself the element of 
water. 

(14) So great is their zeal in assailing truth that they go 
as far as to assert that the sun itself is devoid of heat by 
nature, for the reason that it is white and not ruddy or red 
as fire is. And so they say it is not fiery by nature and, if 

18 Isa. 44.27. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: TWO 59 

it has some heat, they maintain that this is the result of the 
unusual speed of its revolutions. This theory ought to be 
accepted, they claim, for the reason that the sun does not 
seem to consume any moisture, because it does not have a 
natural heat by means of which moisture is either diminished 
or very often drained off. Notwithstanding these arguments 
they do not succeed in their purpose, because it makes no 
difference whether heat is natural or acquired or proceeds 
from some other cause, since every fire is a consumer of 
moisture or of any material such as can be burned by the 
application of fire. For, if you touch leaves with a spark 
obtained, not from wood which is already partly burned, 
but from one produced by the friction of sticks, such a flame 
increases its strength, just as if you were to light a torch 
from a fire. But if you should kindle a light from a flame or 
another lighted object, these two have a fire of the same 
appearance and character as if the fire were produced, not 
by nature, but by accident, 19 These men should, from the 
point of view, at least, of the heat of the sun, take note that 
God has set different times and places for the sun's courses, 
lest, if it should linger always in the same places, it might 
burn them up with its daily heat. Concerning the reasons 
for the bitter and salty nature of sea water, the same people 
relate that so much water is absorbed by heat as it is obtained 
from the confluent rivers, and that so much water is evapor- 
ated each day by the heat as is furnished by the daily inflow 
from the various rivers. This phenomenon is held to take 
place by a certain power of selection on the part of the sun, 
which takes to itself what is pure and light and leaves what 
is heavy and earthy. As a result, there is left that salty and 
dry quality in the water, unsuited to man's consumption 
and enjoyment. 

19 Cf. Lucretius 2.1115. 



60 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 4 

(15) But let us return to our theme: 'Let there be a 
firmament made amidst the water.' 1 Let it not disturb you, 
as I have already said, that above He speaks of heaven and 
here of a firmament, since David also says: The heavens 
narrate the glory of God and the firmament declareth the 
work of his hands. 52 That is to say, the created world, when 
one beholds it, praises its own Author, for His invisible 
majesty is recognized through the things that are visible. 3 
It seems to me that the word 'heaven' is a generic term, 
because Scripture testifies to the existence of very many 
heavens. The word 'firmament 5 is more specific, since here 
also we read:' 'And he called the firmament, heaven.' 4 In a 
general way, He would seem to have said above that heaven 
was made in the beginning so as to take in the entire fabric 
of celestial creation, and that here the specific solidity of this 
exterior firmament is meant. This is called the firmament 
of heaven, as we read in the prophetic hymn, 'Blessed are 
thou in the firmament of heaven. 35 

For heaven, which in Greek is called oupocvoc;, in Latin, 
caelum, is connected with the word 'stamped' [caelatum], 
because the heavens have the lights of the stars impressed 
on them like embossed work, just as silver plate is said to 
be 'stamped' when it glitters with figures in relief. The word 
oupocvoc; seems to be derived from the Greek verb c to be 
seen' [6pSo9cci]. In distinction, therefore, to the earth, 
which is darker, the sky is called oOpccvoc;, because it is 
bright, that is to say, visible. Hence, I believe, is the origin 

1 Gen. 1.6. 

2 Ps. 18.2. 

3 CL Rom, 1,20. 

4 Gen. 1.8. 

5 Dan. 3.56. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 



611 



of that expression: 'The winged ones of heaven always 
behold the face of my Father, who is in heaven.' 6 And 
again: The winged fowl above the firmament of heaven/ 7 
The powers which exist in that visible place behold all these 
things and have them subject to their observation. 

(16) Therefore, the heavens were closed in the times of 
Elias when godlessness reigned with Achab and Jezabel, 8 
since the people were made responsible for the sacrilege of 
their kings. For that reason, no one attempted to raise his 
eyes to heaven, no one paid reverence to his Creator, but, 
rather, worshiped sticks and stones. How do we come to this 
conclusion? Because in His maledictions against the people 
of Israel God said : 'The heaven that is over thee will be of 
brass and your soil of iron,' 9 when paying the price of god- 
lessness, the people of Juda were punished by the inclemency 
of heaven and the sterility of earth for heaven is the source 
of fertility. Therefore, Moses, too, granted this blessing to 
the tribe of Joseph: 'From the confines of heaven and from 
the dew and from the deep that lieth beneath and from the 
course of the sun in accordance with the season and from 
the months that meet and from the tops of the mountains 
and the eternal hills.' 10 For it is true that the fruitfulness of 
the earth is sustained by heavenly guidance. 

Hence, the sky which gives forth no moisture at a time 
when no showers break through the clouds has the appear- 
ance of iron. The sky is also of 'iron 3 when the air is dark 
and dense, with clouds of the color of iron rust, at a time 
when the earth is held in bonds by the rigidity of cold. Then 
moisture seems to be suspended over our heads and to be 
ready to fall at any moment. Frequently, too, water is 

6 Matt. 18.10. 

7 Gen. 1.20. 

8 C. 3 Kings 17.1. 
10 Dcut. 33,13-15. 



62 SAINT AMBROSE 

solidified in the form of snow when subjected to icy winds 
at a time when snow falls through the cleft air. 

This firmament cannot be broken, you see, without a 
noise. It also is called a firmament because it is not weak 
nor without resistance. Hence, in dealing with thunderbolts, 
which give forth a tremendous crash when currents of air 
on the point of arising in the midst of the clouds meet 
together in collision, the Scripture speaks of strengthening 
the thunderbolt. 11 Therefore., the firmament is called because 
of its firmness or because it has been made firm by divine 
power, just as Scripture teaches us, saying: 'Praise ye him 
in the firmament of his power,' 12 

(17) And I am not unaware that some refer 'the heaven 
of heavens 5 to the intelligible powers, the firmament to the 
efficient powers and that the heavens praise and 'shine forth 
the glory of God and the firmament declareth it 313 yet, as we 
have said above, they declare them not as spiritual powers, 
but as things of the world. Others also interpret the waters 
to mean the purificatory powers. We accept this interpret- 
ation as a simple adornment to our treatise. To us, however, 
it does not appear to be inappropriate nor absurd, if we are 
to understand these to be real waters for the reasons given 
above. According to the hymn of the Prophet, dew, frost, 
cold and heat bless the Lord, the earth, too, blesses Him. 1 * 
Furthermore, we do not understand the stars to be unseen 
powers of nature, but as having real existence. Even dragons 
give praise to the Lord, because their nature and aspect, if 
one examines them closely, are not without presenting a 
certain modicum of beauty and design. 

31 Gf. Amos 4.13. 

12 Ps. 150. 1. 

13 Ps. 148.4. 

14 Cf. Dan. 3.64,65, 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 63 

Chapter 5 

(18) 'And God saw that it was good.' 1 The Son does what 
the Father desires. No degeneration of nature is found in 
Him whose work does not degenerate from the will of the 
Father. He saw, it is certain, but not with corporeal eyes. 
He designated that the limit of vision should conform to the 
plenitude of His grace, 2 by which means His judgment may 
be made known to us, for we in fact often dispute even on 
subjects which are divine. 

What wonder is it, then, if those men who are able to turn 
their attention to the work of creation also raise questions 
on the generation of the Creator Himself, Him they call to 
judgment; Him they dare refer to as unjust and unworthy 
of His descent. And so you read both c God spoke 3 and 'God 
created,' in which both Father and Son are honored with 
the same name of majesty. 'And God saw that it was good.' 
He spoke as if speaking to one who knew all the wishes of 
His Father. He saw as if He knew all that His Son had 
accomplished, acting with Him in community of operation. 

(19) 'He saw that it was good.' He did not, of course, 
recognize that of which He was ignorant. Rather, His ap- 
proval was given to what gave Him pleasure. The work did 
not please Him as something unknown, just as the Father, 
who was pleased with the Son, was not like one unknown, 
as it is written : This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well 
pleased.' 3 The Son always knows the will of the Father and 
the Father that of the Son. And the Son listens to the Father 
and the Father hears the Son through the unity of nature, 
will, and substance. The Son, therefore, bears witness to this 

1 Gen. 1.10. 

2 Cf. Joh.n 1.14. 

3 Matt. 3.17. 



64 SAINT AMBROSE 

in the Gospel, speaking to the Father: 'I know that thou 
always hearest me, 34 

The Son is 'the image of the invisible God.' 5 All that the 
Father is, the Son sets forth as an image. The Father illu- 
mines and makes Him manifest for us all as 'the brightness 
of his glory. 56 The Son, too, beholds the work of the Father 
and the Father that of the Son, as the Lord Himself has 
declared : The Son can do nothing of himself but only what 
he sees the Father doing.' 7 He sees, therefore, the Father 
doing and sees and hears Him in like manner through the 
hidden power of His invisible nature. Therefore, He says: 
As I hear, so do I judge, and 'my judgment is true, because 
I am not alone, but with me is he who sent me, the Father.' 8 

(20) This is the mystic sense. The moral sense is this: 
'He saw' for me; 'He approved' for me. What God has 
approved, do not consider worthy of blame, since you recall 
that the statement, 'What God has cleansed, do not thou 
call common,' 9 has been written for you. Hence, let no one 
blaspheme what is good before God! If the firmament is 
good, how much more so is its Creator, even if the Arians 
would not admit it and the followers of Eunomianus should 
object, the no less corrupt fruit of a degenerate root ! 

(21) 'God saw that it was good/ Artists usually work 
first on individual parts and afterwards join them together 
with skill. Those who start to carve out of marble the features 
or bodies of men or mould them in bronze or wax 10 do not 
know exactly how the individual components will blend 
together, nor the beauty which will be the result of the final 

4 John 11,42. 

5 2 Cor. 4.4. 

6 Heb. 1.3. 

7 John 5.19. 

8 John 8.16. 

9 Acts 10.15. 

10 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 6.847,848. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : TWO 65 

work. And so they dare not praise fully, but praise only 
in part. 

God, however, as judge of the whole work, forseeing what 
is going to happen as something completed, commends that 
part of His work which is still in its initial stages, being 
already cognizant of its terminaton. This is not to be won- 
dered at, since in His case the completion of a thing does 
not depend on the termination of the actual work. It rests, 
rather, on the predetermination of His will. He praises each 
individual part as befitting what is to come. He praises the 
total work, which is compounded of the elegance of each 
part. True beauty, in fact, consists of a fitting adjustment 
in each part and in the whole, so that the charm in each 
part and the full appropriateness of the form in the com- 
pleted work are worthy of commendation. 11 

(22) But now let us put an end to the second day, lest, 
while we are attending to the work of the firmament, we may 
cause our hearers to languish because of the prolixity of our 
discourse in a discourse which, prolonged into a night 
which is still devoid of the light of a moon and stars, may 
bring obscurity to those who are returning home. For the 
luminaries of the heavens have not as yet been created. 
Our purpose is also to allow our hearers to refresh them- 
selves with food and drink, so that, while their minds have 
banqueted, the frailty of their flesh may not find cause to 
complain of a fast lasting even until nightfall. 

11 Ancient literary criticism followed this pattern; cf. Pliny, Epistola 
8.4; 2.5; 3.15. 




BOOK THREE: THE THIRD DAY 



THE FOURTH HOMILY 



Chapter 1 

I N OUR DISCOURSE today, the third day rises, as it is 
recorded in Scripture, a notable day which freed 
the earth from inundation at the bidding of God: 
'Let the waters that are under the heaven be gathered together 
into one place.' 1 With this fact it is my wish to begin my 
preface. 

'Let the waters be gathered together.' These words were 
spoken, and the waters gathered together. It has often been 
said, 'let the people be gathered together,' and there was no 
gathering. It brings no slight blush of shame to see that the 
elements which are without sensibility are obedient to the 
command of God, whereas men to whom their Author has 
bestowed sensibility fail to obey His injunction. And perhaps 
it is the same blush of shame which has brought you here 
today in greater numbers. It would hardly appear right for 
the people to fail to congregate in the church of the Lord on 
the day in which water is congregated in one body. 

(2) This is not the only example of the obedience of water 
available to us, for elsewhere we find it written : 'The waters 

1 Gen. 1.6. 

67 



68 SAINT AMBROSE 

saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee and they were afraid. 32 
What is said here of the waters does not seem to be without 
a semblance of truth, since elsewhere the Prophet also speaks 
in the same manner: The sea saw and fled: Jordan was 
turned back. 3 Who does not know how in actual fact the 
sea fled at the crossing of the Hebrews? When the waters 
were divided, the people crossed over, believing because of 
the dust under their feet that the sea had fled, and that the 
waters had vanished. Therefore, the Egyptian believed what 
he saw and entered in, but the waters which had fled 
returned for him. The waters, then, know how to congregate, 
how to fear, and how to flee, when commanded to do so by 
God. Let us imitate these waters and let us recognize one 
congregation of the Lord, one Church, 

(3) There once were gathered here waters from every 
valley, from every marsh, from every lake. The valley signi- 
fies heresy; the valley means the people of the Gentiles, 
because 'The Lord is God of the hills, but is not God of the 
valleys.' 4 Therefore, in the Church there is exultation; among 
the heretics and Gentiles, there is grief and weeping. Hence 
Scripture says: 'In the valley he set up tears. 55 Accordingly, 
the Catholic people have congregated from every valley. 
Now, there are not many congregations; rather, there is one 
congregation, one Church. Here, too, was it said : 'Let waters 
be congregated from every valley,' and there came into 
existence a spiritual congregation, one people. Out of here- 
tics and Gentiles has the Church become filled. 

The valley is a theater, the valley is a circus where runs the 
horse who 'is useless for safety,' 6 where there is vile and 

2 Ps. 76.17. 

3 Ps. 113.3. 

4 3 Kings 20.28. 

5 Ps. 83.7. 

6 Ps. 32.17. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 69 

abject contention, where there is the ignoble strife of litigants. 
From these, then, who used to cleave to the circus has faith 
grown in the Church, and daily attendance is increasing. 

(4) The marsh is self -indulgence, the marsh is intem- 
perance, the marsh is incontinence, where are found wallow- 
ing places for lusts, the grunts of beasts, and the lairs of 
passions. Whoever falls therein is dragged down and does not 
emerge. Here men's feet find no foothold, but waver un- 
certainly. Here water fowls are begrimed when they bathe, 
and above us are heard the mournful cries of doves. Here 
the sluggish turtle buries himself in the muddy waters. 
Therefore we have the sayings: C A boar in the marsh, 5 'a 
stag at the fountains.' 7 And so from every marsh, where like 
frogs they have sung their ancient chant of complaint, has 
congregated here faith; here, too, have congregated purity 
of heart and simplicity of mind. 

(5) Waters have gathered from every lake and from 
every pit, so that no one prepares a pit for his brother 
wherein he himself may fall. 8 Rather, all love each other in 
mutual love, all cherish one the other, and support them- 
selves as one body, although of diverse members. 9 They find 
delight not in the baleful songs sung by theatrical performers, 
songs which lead to sensual love, but in the chants of the 
Church. Here we hear the voice of the people singing in 
harmony the praises of God. The sight of their piety gives us 
pleasure. Here are people who find no delight in tapestries 
of purple or costly stage curtains. Their pleasure lies rather 
in their admiration of this most beautiful fabric of the world, 
this accord of unlike elements, this heaven that is 'spread out 
like a tent to dwell in' 10 to protect those who inhabit this 

7 C. Ps. 79.14; 41.2. 

8 Cf. Prov. 26.27, 

9 Cf. Rom. 12.4. 
10 Isa. 40.22. 



70 SAINT AMBROSE 

world. They find their pleasure in the earth allotted to them 
for their labors, in the ambient air, in the seas here enclosed 
in their bounds. In the people who are the instruments of the 
operations of God they hear music which echoes from melo- 
dious sound of God's word, within which the Spirit of God 
works. They see this temple here, the holy place of the 
Trinity, the habitation of sanctity, the holy Church, in which 
gleam those celestial curtains of which it is said: 'Enlarge 
the place of thy tents and of thy curtains; fasten, spare not, 
lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes; stretch further 
on the right and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the 
Gentiles and thou shalt inhabit the desolate cities.' 11 The 
Church, therefore, has its curtains, by which it raises aloft 
the good life, shields the sinner, and overshadows the fault. 
(6) This is the Church, which is founded upon the seas 
and is prepared upon the rivers. 12 For the Church is made 
strong and is prepared above you, who flow down as rivers 
do from that pure source into the fountain of the world, 
of whom it has been said: 'The floods have lifted up, O 
Lord: the floods have lifted up their voices with the voice 
of many waters.' And the Psalmist added: 'Wonderful are 
the surges of the sea; wonderful is the Lord on high.' 13 
Beneficent are the woods; you have drunk from that perennial 
and full spring, whither you are flowing, which says to you : 
*He who believes in me' (as the Scripture says), 'from within 
him shall flow rivers of living water/ 14 He said this, how- 
ever, of the Spirit, whom they who believed in him were to 
receive. But, like the waters of the good Jordan, return with 
me to the beginning. 

11 Isa. 54.2,3. 

12 Cf. Ps. 23.2. 

13 Ps. 92.3,4. 

14 John 7.38. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION ! THREE 71 

Chapter 2 

(7) 'Let the waters/ Scripture says, 'that are under the 
heaven be gathered together into one place and let the dry 
land appear. And it was so done. 31 

Perhaps one may not at all believe in our preceding dis- 
cussion, where we have argued that the earth was invisible 
for the reason that it was covered with water, so that it 
could not be seen by corporeal eyes, for his own point of 
view, that is, from our condition here, did the Prophet 
speak not from that of the majesty of divine nature, which, 
of course, sees all things. In order to point out to you that 
we have undertaken this laborious task, not for the sake of 
displaying our talents, but for your instruction, we bring as 
witnesses for our cause texts from Scriptures. These clearly 
prove that, after the gathering of the water above the earth 
and its later falling down into the seas, the dry land appeared. 
Let them cease, therefore, as far as we are concerned, to stir 
up contentious disputes by saying : How is the earth invisible 
when form and color are naturally attached to every body and 
every color presupposes a form? 

The voice of God cries out: 'Let the waters be gathered 
together and let the dry land appear.' And again Scripture 
says: The waters are gathered together in one place and 
the dry land appeared.' 2 Why was there need to repeat this, 
if the Prophet had not thought it necessary to forestall dis- 
putes? Does he not seem to say: 'I have not said the earth 
was invisible according to nature, but in respect to the in- 
undation of waters?' Hence, he added that the dry land> 
which before was not seen, showed itself when this covering 
was removed. 

(8) Again, they sow the seeds of other disputes by saying: 

1 Gen. 1.9. 

2 Ibid, 



72 SAINT AMBROSE 

If the waters were in different masses, how came it about, if 
these masses were in the upper regions, that the waters did 
not flow down to that place where, after the command 
given by God, they eventually arrived? For they say it is 
natural that waters flow of themselves into lower regions. 
Moreover, if these masses were below, how did it come to pass 
that they rose up to higher regions, a movement contrary 
to the nature of water? Accordingly, either this natural 
course did not need God's command or, notwithstanding 
this command, it could not succeed because it is contrary 
to nature. 

I will gladly respond to this question, if they will first 
reply to me and show me that before God's command this 
was the nature of water, namely, flowing and falling down- 
ward. It does not have this quality from association with 
the other elements; it is, rather, a special quality, peculiar to 
itself. It is not the result of some natural propensity, but 
issues from the will and operation of the most high God. 
The waters listen to the command of God and the voice of 
God is the efficient cause of nature. This voice coincides with 
the completion of the effect of its operation. The water 
began to flow downwards so as to form one mass water 
which before this had been spread over all the earth and had 
settled in numerous lurking places. I had not read of its 
course before, of its movements I had been uninformed: my 
eye had not seen, no>r had my ear heard. The water stood 
still in diverse places; at the voice of God it was moved. 
Does it not seem that the voice of God gave it this natural 
tendency? The creature followed the injunction of its Creator 
and from the law proceeded custom, the law of its first 
constitution left its imprint for future ages. 

Hence, God created day and night at the same time. 
Since that time, day and night continue their daily succession 
and renewal. The water was ordered to run together in a 



six DAYS OF CREATION: THREE 73 

mass. From that moment, water runs. Springs flow down to 
form rivers, rivers run into larger bodies of water; 3 lakes find 
an outlet in the seas; wave precedes wave, presses on it, and 
follows. There is but one way, one mass. Althought the depths 
differ, the surface remains, however, at an equal level. 
Hence, too, I believe it is called 'aequor* [level] because its 
surface is level. 

(9)1 have made my reply according to the point of view 
of my adversaries. Let them now answer my question: Have 
they ever seen springs shoot up from below? Or water rise 
out of the ground? Who compels it to do so? Whence does 
it issue forth? How is it that it does not fall? How does it 
happen that such deep openings spill forth water? These 
phenomena are in accordance with the mysterious secrets 
of nature. Moreover, who does not know that water fre- 
quently falls to a very low depth with a great rush and then 
rises up to a higher position, even to the summit of a moun- 
tain? Also, that in canals made by a craftsman's hands, the 
water often subsides as much as it previously had been up- 
lifted? Accordingly, if either by its own force or by the 
skill of an engineer water is conducted and raised contrary 
to its own nature, do we wotider if by the operation of 
divine command it has acquired some disposition in its 
nature which it did not have before? 

They may say now to me how God 'gathered the waters 
of the sea as in a vessel,' as Scripture has it, and how 'he 
brought forth water out of the rocks. 5 Could not He who 
brought forth water, which did not exist, out of a rock, also 
not guide water which already existed? 'He struck the rock,' 
cried David, 'and the streams overflowed,' and elsewhere, 
'above the mountains shall the waters stand,' 4 In the Gospel 
we read that when there was a severe storm and the sea 



3 Cf. Virgil, Atneid 1.607. 

4 Ps. 32.7; cf. 77.16; Ps. 77.20; 103.6. 



74 SAINT AMBROSE 

was in violent motion, so much so that the Apostles feared 
the dangers of shipwreck and aroused the Lord Jesus who 
was asleep in the stern, He arose and rebuked the wind and 
the sea and the tempest was abated and calm was restored, 5 
Could not He who was able to calm the whole sea at His 
bidding also move the waters by His command? Well, in the 
account of the flood it is related that 'the fountains of the 
great deep were broken up' and that God afterwards caused 
the wind to blow over the deep so as to dry up the waters. 6 
If these men do not wish to concede that nature obeyed and 
that the habitual character of an element was changed by 
God's command, at least they can concede this: the waters 
could have been moved by the force of the wind, a pheno- 
menon to be seen every day on the sea, when the waters flow 
in the direction of the movement of the wind. If the sea 
was dried up by the force of a strong south wind in the time 
of Moses, 7 could not a body of water be dried up in the 
same manner? Did not the waters, too, have the power of 
flowing into the sea, water which later on was actually 
severed from the bed of the sea? Let them learn that nature 
can be changed, after water burst forth from a rock and iron 
floated on water, 8 a marvel which Eliseus succeeded in doing 
by the power of prayer and not by command. 

If, therefore, Eliseus caused iron, contrary to nature, to 
lose its weight in water, could not Christ put the water 
in motion? But He had the power of moving the waters who 
was able to say, 'Lazarus, come forth' 9 and bring the dead 
back to life, since God always brings to pass what He 
ordains. In like manner understand the words: 'Let the 
waters be gathered together in one place/ and they were 

5 Cf. Matt. 8.2-1,26. 

6 Gen. 7.11; cf. 8.1. 

7 Cf. Exod. 14.27. 

8 Cf. Exod. 17.6; 4 Kings 6.6. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 75 

gathered. By saying: 'Let them be gathered/ He not only 
moved the waters from their place, but He also set them 
down in a place, so that they would not flow away, but 
stand still. 

(10) The following is on this account a greater marvel: 
how all the bodies of water flowed into one body and how 
that one body was not full to overflowing. Scripture, too, 
reckoned this among extraordinary happenings by stating: 
'All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not over- 
flow.' 10 By the command of God, therefore, two things are 
accomplished : the waters flow, yet do not overflow. A bound- 
ary is set up by which the seas are circumscribed and con- 
fined, lest the waters inundate everything by pouring over 
the earth and lest the earth, devoid of cultivation, may 
prevent the soil from fulfilling its natural function of pro- 
ducing in abundance. 

Let them recognize the fact, therefore, that this is the 
result of divine precept and of celestial operation, for the 
Lord addresses Job from the clouds, saying, among other 
things, this, also, about the barrier of the sea: 'I set my 
bounds around it and made it bars and doors, and I said: 
"hitherto thou come and shalt go no further, but on thyself 
shall be broken thine own waves." ni Do we not ourselves 
often see the sea billowing so that its waves rise up 'like a 
sheer mountain of water/ 12 when it breaks its force in foam 
against the shore, beaten back by what might be called the 
barriers of the low-lying sandy beach, according to what the 
Scripture says: 'Will you not then fear me, saith the Lord, 
who has set the sand a bound for the sea?' 13 Thus the 
violent onslaught of the sea is held in check by the most 

10 Eccle, 1.7. 

11 Job 38.10,11. 

12 Virgil, Aeneid 1.105. 

13 Jer. 5.22. 



76 SAINT AMBROSE 

unstable of all things, ordinary coarse sand of the seashore. 
The waves recoil and are guided to their prescribed bounds 
by a command from heaven, and the violent movement of 
the water is broken by meeting itself. It then departs in 
receding ripples. 14 

(11) Moreover, unless the force of a celestial decree did 
not serve as a check, who would prevent the Red Sea 
from pouring over the plains of Egypt (which is claimed to 
be flat and low-lying with very deep valleys) and from 
mingling its waters with the Egyptian Sea? The men who 
wished to connect these two seas and to make them one have 
made us aware of the fact. The Egyptian Sesostris of an 
older period and Darius the Mede, in virtue of his greater 
power, wanted to put into effect what had been attempted 
before their time by a native of the country. This fact is 
substantial evidence that the Indian Ocean, which includes 
the Red Sea, is of higher elevation than the Egyptian Sea, 
the level of whose waters is lower. And it may well have been 
that both kings relinquished their projects lest the sea, in 
headlong rush from a higher to a lower level, should in- 
undate their land. 

Chapter 3 

(12) And now, on the statement; 'Let the waters be 
gathered together in one place,' the question would arise: 
How could one body of water be formed from what is 
scattered over lakes, marshes and swamps, also waters which 
inundate valleys, plains and level lands, stemming from 
springs and from rivers? Moreover, how could these waters 
form one mass, whereas today waters are scattered in diverse 
seas? For we speak of such varied seas as these: the ocean, 

14 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 1.161. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 77 

the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Indian, Egyptian, and Pontic seas, 
the Propontic, the Hellespont, Euxine, Aegean, Ionian, and 
Atlantic seas. Many also speak of a Cretic Sea and of a 
Northern Caspian. Let us therefore consider the meaning 
of the words of Scripture and weigh them with exactitude. 

(13) 'Let the waters/ He said, be gathered together in 
one place,' The mass of water is continuous and unbroken, 
yet there are different coastal bays, as a profane writer 
states, 1 For the Pontus is a very large bay of our sea [the 
Mediterranean] to which different names are given in 
different places. Rightly so, because the regions adjacent to 
these bodies of water give them special names, yet there is 
but one mass of water, because one continuous and unbroken 
body of water extends from the Indian sea up the shores 
of Cadiz and from there extends to the Red Sea, to the 
extreme limit of the world, which is enclosed by the cir- 
cumambient Ocean. Within this circle the Adriatic mingles 
with the Tyrrhenian Sea, while other seas form a union 
with the Adriatic seas distinguished from it by name, but 
not by a difference of water mass. 

Hence, God has fittingly said: The getting together of 
waters he called seas,' 2 And so there is one general mass 
which is called a sea and many bodies of water which are 
called seas after the regions where they are situated. Just as 
there are many lands, such as Africa, Spain, Thrace, Mace- 
donia, Syria, Egypt, Gaul, and Italy, which are given names 
from their respective regions, so there is but one earth. In a 
similar manner, there are many seas named after their 
locations, but there is but one actual sea, as the Prophet 
says: Thine are the heavens and thine is the earth, the 
world and the fulness thereof Thou hast founded; the north 

1 Cicero, in Timaeus, now a fragment. 

2 Gen. 1.10. 



78 SAINT AMBROSE 

and the sea thou hast created. 33 And the Lord Himself says 
to Job : C I have shut up the sea with doors/ 4 

(14) Now that we have spoken of one mass, the question 
arises how a single body of water could drain the land of 
water, although that water had previously possessed all the 
land, poured into the hollow places in the mountains, plains, 
and valleys water which lay stagnant in an universal in- 
undation. For, if everything was covered in this way for 
He would not have said: The earth appeared,' unless He 
wished to indicate that it was uncovered everywhere if the 
flood in the time of Noe hid even the mountains when there 
already was a separation of the waters above the heavens 
and those below the firmament if this were so, then how 
can one doubt that the tops of the mountains were hidden 
in the inundation we speak of? Whence, then, came that 
overabundant supply of water? What reservoirs were there, 
so continuous and unbroken as to hold all the water in place? 

(15) On this subject there is much at hand for the formu- 
lation of reply. First of all, the Creator of all things had the 
power of enlarging space a power which some before us 
have in their private opinion laid down as a possibility. 
And I am not overlooking in this case the potency of God; 
but what He actually has done, which I have not learned 
from the clear testimony of Scripture, I pass over as a 
mystery, lest, perchance, that stir up other questions start- 
ing even from this point. Nevertheless, I maintain in accord 
with the Scriptures that God can extend the low-lying 
regions and the open plains, as He has said ; C I will go before 
thee and make level the mountains/ 5 The very force of 
water can also make its bed deeper by the violent movements 
of the waves and by the impact of the surf of that wild 

3 Ps. 88.12,13. 

4 Job 38,8. 

5 Jsa. 45.2. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: THREE 79 

element which day by day stirs up the bottom of the sea, 
drawing forth sands from its very depths. 

Who, then, knows how far that mighty sea pours its waters 
which, unapproachable even to daring navigators, encloses 
the British Isles with its innumerable bays and extends even 
to remote regions, unknown and unrecorded even in legend- 
ary tales? Who is not aware of the mass of water from the 
sea which has seeped into the numerous lakes, such as the 
Lucrine and Lake Avernus in Italy, Lake Tiberias, too, in 
Palestine, not to mention that lake that lies in the desert 
region of Arabia between Palestine and Egypt/ and the 
^water which has seeped into the several ports made by 
Augustus and by Trajan, as well as into many similar ones 
throughout the entire world? 

(16) Still, there are some lakes and standing waters 
which are not connected with other waters, such as Lake 
Como, Lake Garda, the Alban lake and many others. How 
then can one speak of one mass of water? But, just as God 
made two luminaries, the sun and the moon although 
there still exist, to be sure, the lights of the stars in like 
manner, we speak also of one mass of water, although there 
are very many such. The reason is that what has not been 
taken in consideration in any enumeration is not reckoned in 
the sum total. 



Chapter 4 

(17) But it seems that, while I was speaking of the sea, 
I exceeded my bounds a little. Let us return to our theme 
and let us reflect on the words of the Lord : 'Let the waters 
be gathered together into one place and let the dry land 

6 The Dead Sea. 



80 SAINT AMBROSE 

appear/ 1 He did not say: 'Let the land appear. 5 Who does 
not note the appropriateness of this statement? For the 
earth could be a composite of mud and water, and thus its 
appearance would be concealed by the inundating water. 
The term 'dry" applies not only to the general nature of the 
earth, but can also be used in a specific way, so that the 
earth may be useful, firm, suitable, and ready for cultivation. 
At the same time, it was provided that the earth would, to 
all appearance, have been dry by the hand of God rather 
than by the sun, for the earth actually became dry before 
the sun was created. Wherefore, David, too, distinguished 
the sea from the land, referring to the Lord God: Tor the 
sea is his and he made it, and his hands made the dry land.'* 

The word 'dry 5 is the expression of a natural characteristic; 
the word 'earth' is a simple name of a thing which has in 
itself that same characteristic. Just as the word 'animal' is a 
generic term which Includes within it a certain notable 
property, and as man has his special characteristic which is 
reason, in like manner the word 'earth' can be used in- 
differently of what is saturated with water or of a place c in 
a desert land and where there is no way and no water.' 3 
Therefore, the land saturated with water has within it ele- 
ments of dryness, as it has been written: 'He hath turned 
rivers into a wilderness and the sources of waters into dry 
ground,' 4 that is to say, He made dry the land that was 
before filled with water. 

(18) The earth, therefore, has its own peculiar property, 
just as the individual elements have, for each has its own 
characteristic: the air is humid, water is cold, and fire k 
warm. That these are the chief qualities of each of the 

1 Gen. 1.9. 

2 Ps. 94.5. 

3 Ps. 62.3. 

4 Ps. 106.33. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION I THREE 8 1 

elements can be determined by our observation. If we should 
desire to make a test of these elements with our bodily senses 
we find that their qualities exist in a certain combination. 
For example, we discover earth to be dry and cold; water, 
cold and humid; air, warm and humid; fire, warm and dry. 
Thus, each and every one of the elements is bound together 
by qualities shared in common with some other element. 

Since earth has a quality both dry and cold, it is connected 
with water by association of its cold quality, and through 
water it is related to the air because the air is humid. Hence, 
water seems to embrace with its two arms, as it were, cold and 
humidity, on the one side, the earth, on the other, air 
the earth with its quality of coldness, the air with its quality 
of humidity. Air, by its nature, also forms an intermediary 
between two opposing elements, that is, between water and 
fire, for it binds both elements together. It shares with water 
the quality of humidity and with fire the quality of warmth. 
Fire, too, since it is by nature warm and dry, is bound to air 
by its quality of warmth, and, because of its dry quality, is 
turned back to form an association and a union with earth. 
In this manner these elements, by a circuitous process, meet 
together in a dance measure of concord and association. 
Hence, the Latin elementa is found in Greek as 
denoting agreement and harmony. 

(19) We have come to this point because Scripture says 
that God called the earth 'dry,' that is to say, He denominated 
by its natural quality that which is its prime characteristic. 
The natural characteristic for earth is dryness. This is a 
quality reserved for it. Its prime quality, therefore, is dryness, 
A secondary quality is that of coldness, but this does not take 
precedence over its primary trait. The fact that it is humid 
is also derived from its kinship with water. Hence, the former 
characteristic is peculiar to the earth, the other is alien : dry- 
ness belongs to earth; humidity is alien to it. The Author 



82 SAINT AMBROSE 

of nature accordingly adhered to what He had first granted to 
the earth, for one quality is founded on nature; the other 
comes from an [external] cause. The peculiar qualities of the 
earth, therefore, ought to be determined from the primary 
qualities, not from what is accidental, in order that our 
knowledge might be formed from an observation of the 
preferred characteristic. 



Chapter 5 

(20) 'And God saw that it was good. 5 We do not fail to 
record the fact that some do not believe that either in the 
Hebrew or in other versions it is said: The waters were 
gathered together into their places and dry land appeared. 
And God called the dry land Earth and the gathering to- 
gether of the waters he called Seas/ 1 Also, when God said: 
*And it was so done,' 2 they are generally of the opinion 
that there we have the words of the Creator signifying the 
fulfillment of the work. But, because in regard also to other 
created things there is found first the formula of a command 
and afterwards the repeated indication or execution of a 
work, for that reason we do not think that which is con- 
sidered an addition to be in the nature of an absurdity, 
even if by other interpreters sufficient proof may be presented 
for either its truth or its authenticity. Much that was added 
or attached to the Hebrew version by the writers of the 
Septuagint we have discovered not to be superfluous. 

(21 ) God saw, then, that the sea was good. The aspect of 
this element is beautiful, either when the sea foams with its 

1 Gen. 1.10. 

2 Gen, 1.9; thus the Vulgate may be translated. The most recent ver- 
sion, 'And so it was,' follows the Hebrews and Septuagint more 
dosely. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 83 

surging white caps and mountings billows, or when it bedews 
the rocks with its snowy spray, or even when under a balmy 
breeze it shimmers, often in this case presenting itself to the 
beholder from afar in colors of purple, suggesting serene 
tranquillity. Such is the aspect of the sea when it does not 
beat the nearby shores with the onrush of its waves, but 
when the waters greet it, as it were, in a fond embrace of 
peace. How gentle is the sound, how pleasing the splash of 
the water, how pleasant and rhythmic the wave-beats! 
Notwithstanding all this, I am of the opinion that the beauty 
of such a creation is not to be estimated by the standard 
of our own eyes, but is to be gauged in the design of the 
work as a whole by its conformity and agreement with the 
intention of its Creator. 

(22) The sea, therefore, is good; first, because it supplies 
the moisture necessary for the earth, to which it furnishes, 
so to speak, a sustaining fluid through the hidden apertures 
of its veins. The sea is good in its functions as a biding-place 
for the rivers, as a source of rainfall, as a place for the 
reception of alluvial deposits, as a carrier of merchandise, 
thereby linking distant people together. Furthermore, the 
sea defends us from the perils of warfare; by the sea, the 
fury of the barbarian is hedged in; the sea provides support 
in times of necessity, a refuge in times of danger, a delightful 
place for seekers after pleasure; it is a source of health for 
the sick, 3 it joins together the separated; to voyagers it is a 
time-saver, to men in trouble a place of escape, to tax-payers 
it is an aid, and to the farmer in distress it is a means of 
livelihood. From the sea we obtain rain for the earth, since 
water is drawn from the sea which is deprived of its moisture 
by the sun's rays. Then, the higher it reaches, the colder it 
becomes by reason of the shadowy coolness of the clouds. As 
a result, we have rainfall, which not only relieves the earth 

3 See Mullach, Fragmenta phil. Gvwec. I 518a vs 15. 



84 SAINT AMBROSE 

of its dryness, but also provides nourishment to the famish- 
ing fields. 

(23) Why need I enumerate the islands, which often 
adorn the sea with their jewelled necklaces? Men who hide 
themselves there seek to escape from the world with all its 
inducements to intemperate living with a firm purpose to live 
in continence and thereby avoid the dubious conflicts of this 
life. The sea, then, is a hiding-place for the temperate, 
an abode for those who wish to practice continency, a refuge 
for those in distress, a haven for the secure, a place of tran- 
quillity for the unworldy and a place in this world for the 
prudent and moderate. Moreover, it provides an incentive to 
devout living for the faithful, so that they may rival the 
gentle sound of lapping waters with the songs of the psalms. 
Thus, the islands voice their approval with their tranquil 
chorus of blessed waters and with the singing of pious hymns 
resound. 

How is it possible for rne to comprehend all the beauty 
of the sea a beauty beheld by the Creator? Why say more? 
What else is that melodic sound of the waves if not the 
melody of the people? Hence, the sea is often well compared 
to a church which 'disgorges a tide 3 through all its vestibules 
at the first array of the approaching congregation; 4 then, as 
the whole people unite in prayer, there is a hiss of receding 
waves; the echo of the psalms when sung in responsive 
harmony by men and women, maidens and children is like 
the sound of breaking waves. Wherefore, what need I say of 
this water other than it washes away sin and that the 
salutary breath of the Holy Spirit is found in it? 

(24) May God grant us our prayer: to sail on a swift 
ship under a favorable breeze and finally reach a haven of 
safety; that we may not be exposed to spiritual obstacles 
too great to overcome; that we may not meet with ship- 

4 Virgil, Georgics 2.462. 



SIX BAYS OF CREATION : THREE 85 

wreck to our faith. We pray, also, for a peace profound and, 
if there be anything that may arouse the storms of this 
world against us, that we may have as our ever-watchful 
pilot our Lord Jesus, who by His command can calm the 
tempest and restore once more the sea's tranquillity. 5 To 
Him be honor and glory in perpetuity, both now and forever, 
and for all ages to come. Amen. 

5 Matt. 8.26; Luke 8.24. 



86 SAINT AMBROSE 

THE FIFTH HOMILY 

Chapter 6 

(25) When the waters receded, it was proper that a 
special aspect and charm be bestowed on the earth so that 
it would cease 'to be invisible and without form. 51 For many 
maintain that a thing is invisible because it has no special 
aspect. For that reason they hold that the earth was invisible 
not because it could not be seen by the most high God or 
by His angels, but because it was without a special aspect. 
It could not be seen by men or even beasts because they had 
not yet been created. What provides this aspect for the 
earth is the soil's verdure and vegetation* Hence, in order 
to bestow visibility and form on the earth, God says: 'Let 
the earth bring forth the green herb and such as may seed 
and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may 
have seed in itself upon the earth.' 2 

(26) Let us pay heed to the words of truth! Their content 
is the salvation of those who hear ! For that first declaration 
of God is a law of nature which requires that every creature 
be born. This law has continued in force for all ages, with 
the intent to prescribe how a continuous succession of plants 
may experience in time to come modes of generation and 
fructification. 3 And so, first there is germination, when the 
seeds seem to burst forth newly born; next, when the sprout 
has burst forth and becomes a green shoot; when the green 
shoot has grown a little it becomes the green herb. How 
serviceable, how effective, is the speech: 'Let the earth 
bring forth the green herb,' that is so say, let the earth bring 

1 Gen. 1.2. 

2 Gen. 1.11. 

3 Cf. Virgil, Georgia? 2.122-134. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 87 

forth of itself, let it not seek the aid of another, let it not be 
needful of any other ministrations. 

(27) Many, it is true, are accustomed to state that the 
earth could not have germinated without the warmth of the 
sun's temperate heat and in some way by its fostering rays. 
Hence, the Gentiles bestow divine honors on the sun, because 
it penetrates the bowels of the earth with the power of its 
heat and in that way cherishes the scattered seed or frees 
from the bonds of frost the sap of the trees. Listen, then, to 
God who utters words like these: Let the foolish speech of 
men be silent for future time, let their baseless opinions 
cease to be ! Before the light of the sun shall appear, let the 
green herb be born, let its light be prior to that of the sun. 
Let the earth germinate before its receives the fostering care 
of the sun, lest there be an occasion for human error to grow. 
Let everyone be informed that the sun is not the author of 
vegetation. The earth is freed through the clemency of God; 
the fruit of the earth emerges therefrom through His indul- 
gence. How can the sun give the faculty of life to growing 
plants, when these have already been brought forth by the 
life-giving creative power of God before the sun entered 
into such a life as this? The sun in younger than the green 
shoot, younger than the green plant! 



Chapter 7 

(28) And perhaps some may wonder why sustenance for 
animals was provided before food for man was created. 
In this matter we ought to take note of the depths of God's 
wisdom, 1 in that He does not neglect the least of things. 
For, the divine Wisdom utters these words in the Gospel: 
'Look at the birds of the air, they do not isow or reap or 

1 Cf. Rom. 11.33. 



88 SAINT AMBROSE 

gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are 
you of much more value than they? 52 If these have their 
food through the kindness of God, then no one ought to 
pride himself on his own industry and natural ability. And 
no one ought to give simple and natural food precedence 
over the rest. The former is the food of the temperate; the 
rest of foods contribute to delight and luxury. One is common 
to all living things; the other, to a few. Hence, such a fact 
furnishes us with an example for frugal living, and is a 
wise injunction that we ought to be content to live on simple 
herbs, on cheap vegetables and fruits such as nature has 
presented to us and the generosity of God has offered to us. 
This sort of food is wholesome and useful, too, in that it 
wards off disease and prevents indigestion. No human labor 
has provided it; it is, rather, the bounteous gift of God. 
Vegetables are at hand which were not sown; there is fruit 
that needed no seed all so sweet and pleasant that they 
furnish enjoyment even to those who have already sated 
themselves. In a word, the food that was used for the first 
course continued to be used for the second. 

(29) What more need I add to the theme of the marvels 
of this creation and to the proof of the existence of a Creative 
Wisdom? For, in the appearance of a bud on the one hand, 
and in the provision of a green herb, on the other, there 
lies an image of the life of man and what may be termed a 
clear indication and mirror of our nature and of our condi- 
tion. That green herb and flower of the field are a figure 
of the flesh of man, as the true interpreter of divinity has 
expressed in organ tones: 'Cry! What shall I cry? All flesh 
is grass and all the glory of man is as the flower of the field. 
The grass is withered and the flower is fallen, but the word 
of the Lord endureth forever.' 3 This is the thought of God 

2 Matt. 6.26. 

3 Isa. 40.6-9; 1 Peter 1.24. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 89 

though uttered by the voice of man. God says: 'Cry/ but 
He speaks in the person of Isaias, who answered: 'What 
shall I cry?' and, as he had heard what he should say, added: 
'All flesh is grass/ And with truth, for the glory of man 
waxes green in his flesh like grass, and what is considered to 
be sublime is actually a lowly green herb. Blooming early as 
a flower and briefly as the green herb, it has the outward 
appearance of vigor, but its fruit has no lasting quality. It 
displays like a flower the joys of a happy existence, but is 
destined to pass away in all too brief a moment like the 
green herb, 'which withereth before it be plucked up.' 4 For 
what strength can there be in flesh, what enduring quality 
can there be in health? 

Today you may behold a youth who is strong and vigorous 
in the flower of his age, pleasing in aspect and with the 
fine glow of health. 5 Tomorrow you meet the same youth, 
but how changed are his form and features! 6 The young 
man who the previous day appeared to luxuriate in health 
and beauty is now an object of pity, prostrate and weakened 
by the inroads of some illness. Toil or want take their toll of 
health: some suffer from stomach ills; others from abuse of 
wine. Still others are enfeebled by old age; others are emas- 
culated and disfigured by overindulgence in pleasure. Is it 
not true that 'the grass is withered and that the flower has 
fallen?' 7 

Another man, who claims nobility from his grandfather 
and great-grandfather 8 and has been made illustrious by 
the insignia of offices held by his ancestors, a man re- 
nowned by the trappings of his noble birth, abounding in 
friends, surrounded on both sides by a crowd of clients 

4 Ps. 128.6. 

5 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 1.168. 

6 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 2.274. 

7 Isa. 40.7. 

8 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 7.56. 



90 SAINT AMBROSE 

who accompany him like a troop of slaves to and from his 
house 9 should this man suddenly find himself faced with 
some passing peril, he is abandoned by all, he is shunned 
by his friends and assailed by his relatives. Consider how 
true it is that the life of man is like the grass of the field, 
'which withereth before it is plucked up. 5 

There is also the man who for a long time has had 
abundance of wealth, the fame of whose generosity has 
flitted over the lips of every man, 10 a man renowned for 
his honors, outstanding in power, with a lofty seat in the 
tribunals, enthroned aloft and regarded as happy by the 
populace while he is being announced by the cries of the 
heralds. By a sudden change of fortune he is dragged 
away into the same prison into which he himself had cast 
others. Among his own victims he bewails in anguish his 
impending punishment. What crowds of sycophants and 
what a invidious procession of throngs of people had formerly 
conducted him from his home! Just one night put an end 
to the splendor of that triumphal pomp! Human glory of 
this kind is like a flower of the field which, even when it is 
taken away, contributes nothing to the labor. From it no 
fruit is obtained and, when it is allowed to fall, it fades 
away, depriving man of the protective covering by which 
he is shaded from above and animated within. 

(31) Would that we could imitate the green herb con- 
cerning which the Lord speaks: 'Let the earth bring forth 
the green herb and such as may seed and the fruit tree 
yielding fruit after its kind of a like nature.' 11 Let us sow, 
therefore, the seed after its kind. What that kind is, hear 
the Apostle who says that we ought to seek after that divine 
seed, if we would succeed in any way in finding the divine: 

9 Of. Sallust, Bellum Jug. 85.10. 

10 Gt Ennius, eked by Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 1.34. 

11 Gen. 1.11. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 91 

'Though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live 
and move and have our being as some of you/ he adds, 'have 
said : "For we are also his offering." 312 

Following this principle, let us sow the seed, not in the 
flesh, but in the spirit. For we ought not to sow carnal 
seeds, but spiritual ones, 13 if we desire to attain eternal life. 
And what that 'likeness 3 is you are not unaware, you who 
have been made to the 'image and likeness' of God. The 
green herb corresponds to its kind. You do not correspond 
to your kind. When a grain of wheat is scattered over the 
soil it returns the gift of its kind; but you degenerate. Grain 
does not dishonor the true character of its seed; you dishonor 
the purity of your soul, the vigor of your mind, the chastity 
of your body. 

(32) Do you recognize the fact that you are the work 
of Christ? With His own hands He formed you, as we read, 
yet you, Manichaean, you assume for yourself another author, 
God the Father says to His Son: 'Let us make man to our 
image and likeness, 514 yet you, adherent of Photinus, say 
that in the construction of the world there was no Christ. 15 
And you, follower of Eunomius, say the Son is unlike the 
Father. For if He is His image, then He is in no wise 
dissimilar; rather, He reflects entirely His Father, who im- 
pressed on Him the unity of His substance. The Father 
says: 'Let us make 5 ; yet you refuse to co-operate. The Son 
carried out what the Father spoke, yet you deny the equality 
in Him in whom the Father was well pleased, 16 

12 Acts 17.27,28. 

13 Cf. 1 Cor. 9.11. 

14 Gen. 1.26; cf. 1.27. 

15 See Vol. 22 of this series, p. 329. 

16 Cf. Matt, 3.17. 



92 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 8 

(33) 'Let the earth/ He said, 'bring forth the green herb 
after its kind/ 1 All things which are referred to as growing 
in the earth begin with a seed. When it has emerged a little 
it becomes a green shoot, then a stalk, and finally bears 
fruit. There are growing plants which spring from the root, 
such as trees which are not sown from seed, but grow from 
the roots of other trees. We see in the case of a reed how at 
its base there emerges from its side a sort of bulb from 
which other seeds germinate. There is in the root, therefore, 
something which has the potency of a seed. There are 
grafted plants, too, which germinate higher up. Hence, 
some plants reproduce themselves from the root; others are 
reproduced in diverse ways. For in every growing thing there 
is either a seed or something which has the power of a seed. 
These plants follow their kind, so that what emerges from 
them is similar to what has been sown or like those from 
whose roots they germinate. As examples we can point to the 
fact that wheat produces wheat and that from millet comes 
millet; again, the pear tree with its white flowers 2 produces 
pears, and the chestnut trees springs from the root of the 
chestnut. 

(34) 'Let the earth/ He said, 'bring forth the green herb 
after its kind.' And forthwith the earth in labor brought 
forth new plants; girding herself with the garments of ver- 
dure, she luxuriated in fecundity, and decked in diverse 
seedlings, she claimed them as her own fitting adornments. 
We marvel at the speed of that productivity. How many 
more wonders appear, if you examine each plant, noticing 
how the seed when laid in the earth decays and, if it did 
not die, would bear no fruit; but when it decays, by that 

1 Gen. 1.11. 

2 Cf. Vireril, Georzics 2.7L72. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 93 

very act of death, arises to bear fruit in greater abundance. 3 
The pliable sod receives, then,, a grain of wheat; 4 the scat- 
tered seed is controlled by the use of the hoe and mother 
earth cherishes it in firm embraces to her breast. When that 
grain decays, there comes the pleasing aspect of the green 
burgeoning shoot, which immediately reveals its kind from 
its similarity to its own seed, so that you may discover the 
nature of the plant even in the very beginning of its growth, 
and its fruit, too, is made evident to you. Gradually, it grows 
so as eventually to attain full maturity and height. At the 
point when the jointed stalk emerges, sheaths for the grain 
to come are being prepared. Within these the grain is being 
formed, so that cold may not cause injury to the plant in its 
tender beginnings, or the heat of the sun burn it, or the cruel 
violence of the wind and rain beat it to the ground. In addi- 
tion, the ear of wheat has wonderfully formed rows both 
pleasing in appearance and made for the protection of the 
plant, resulting from their naturally interwoven texture 
which is the creation of divine Providence. Moreover, in 
order to serve as a support for and to offset the weight of a 
more abundant number of ears, the stalk itself is enclosed 
in what may be termed sheaths, so that by its reinforced 
strength it can sustain manifold grains of wheat and that 
it may not be bent towards the earth because of its inability 
to bear its burden. Then, over the ear is erected a rampart 
in the form of a beard, so that a line of defense may be 
extended to protect the ear from injury from the attacks 
of little birds, by which means the wheat grain is keep 
intact from the devastion of their claws. 5 

(35) What shall I say of the kindness of God in providing 
things useful for the human race? The earth returned with 

3 Cf. John 12.24. 

4 Cf. Virgil, Georgics L44. 

5 Cf. Cicero, De wnectute 15.51, for language and thought. 



94 SAINT AMBROSE 

interest what it had received, even with compound interest ! 
Men often deceive and often defraud the money-lender of 
his just due. But the earth remains faithful to promises and, 
if at time it does not pay back, if, perchance, severe cold or 
extraordinary dry weather or tremendous rain storms bring 
disaster, the losses of a single year are counterbalanced by 
the year which follows. And so, when the harvest belies the 
hopes of the farmer, in no way does the earth forsake him. 
Again, when she smiles on him, fertile Mother Earth pours 
forth her offspring, so that she never incurs a loss to her 
creditors. 

(36) When the land, in fact, is completely stocked, how 
can we, if we are to rely on our tongue, satisfactorily des- 
cribe the pleasant sights and scents and the joys of the 
countryman? But we have the testimony of the Scripture, 
wherein we note that the delights of the countryside are 
compared to the blessing and grace of the saints, for Isaac, 
a holy man, says: The smell of my son is the smell of a 
plentiful field.' 6 

How can I describe the violets with their shades of purple, 
the lilies of brilliant white, and the roses with their shades of 
red? How describe the landscape painted with flowers, some- 
times of a golden hue or of varied colors or of bright yellow, 
among which you cannot decide whether their beauty or 
their fragrant scent gives more delight. 7 Our eyes revel in 
this pleasant spectacle as that fragrance which fills us with 
its sweetness is spread far and wide. Whence the Lord has 
justly said: 'And with me is the beauty of the field,' 8 This 
beauty is with Him because He has created it. What other 
artist could so depict such charm in each and every object? 

'Consider the lilies of the field,' what brilliance in their 

6 Gen. 27,27. 

7 Cf. Virgil, Georgia 2.132. 

8 Ps. 49.11. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 95 

petals, how they appear to arise in packed rows all the way 
to the top so as to form a goblet ! Note how within it gleams 
like gold, and, furthermore, how around its edge as a defense 
against any injury a kind of rampart is constructed! If any 
one were to pluck this flower and take each petal apart, 
what craftsman's hand is so expert as to be able to restore 
the form of the lily? Who is such an effective imitator of 
nature as to presume to reconstruct this flower, to which the 
Jl,ord has so borne testimony as to say: *Not even Solomon 
in all his glory was so arrayed like one of these 5 ? 9 A king so 
rich and wise was deemed inferior to the beauty of this 
flower ! 

(3) Why should I enumerate the health-giving juices 
of herbs or the remedies provided by shrubs and leaves? 
When a stag is sick, he eats the branches of the olive tree and 
becomes well. The leaves of the olive, too, cure the locusts 
of illness. The application of the leaves of a bramble to a 
serpent bring about his death. Gnats will not trouble you if 
you anoint yourself with wormwood which has been cooked 
in oil. 

Chapter 9 

(38) But some perhaps may say: How do you account 
for the fact that deadly poisonous plants grow along with 
those that are of use, for example, there is found along with 
wheat the poisonous hemlock, a plant discoverable among 
those that support life. Unless you are on your guard 
against it, this plant can injure your health. Found grow- 
ing among other plants that help to sustain life are hellebore 
and monk's hood, which too often delude and deceive the 
gatherer, 1 But would you find fault with the earth because 

9 Matt. 6.28,29. 



1 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 2.152. 



96 SAINT AMBROSE 

not all men are good? What is of more consequence, you 
should realize that not all the angels of heaven were good. 
The sun itself by its excessive heat parches the ears of wheat 
and causes the young growing plants to wither, whereas 
the moon shows voyagers the way and reveals the lurking 
places of robbers. 2 Is it right, therefore, that we disregard 
the bounty of the Founder in furnishing us useful things 
and, just because of certain noxious plants, detract from the 
forethought of the Creator? Some people act as if every- 
thing had to be created for our gourrnandizing or as if there 
was just a trifling amount left by the kindness of God to 
minister to our appetites. Definite foods have been allotted 
to us which are known to all, foods which provide us with 
both pleasure and physical health. 

(39) Each and every thing which is produced from the 
earth has its own reason for existence, which, as far as it 
can, fulfills the general plan of creation. Some things, there- 
fore, are created for our consumption; other things serve 
for other uses. There is nothing without a purpose; there is 
nothing superfluous in what germinates from the earth. What 
you consider as useless has use for others; as a matter of 
fact, it often is useful to you in another way. That which 
does not serve for food has medical qualities, and it often 
happens that what is harmful to you provides harmless food 
for birds or wild beasts. Thus, starlings feed on the hemlock 
without any ill effects, since by their physical nature they 
are immune to its deadly and poisonous sap. Such sap, in 
fact, is cold by nature, which, when conducted through 
fine pores into the region of the heart, by a process of 
premature digestion is prevented from reaching the vital 
organs themselves. Those who are expert on the nature of 
hellebore say that it provides food and sustenance to quails 
and that through a certain natural composition of their 

2 Cf. St. Ambrose, Hymns 2.7 (nocturna lux viantibus) . 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 97 

bodies these animals become immune to its harmful effects. 
The fact is that through medical science this plant frequently 
serves to preserve the health of the human body, to which 
it seems to be adverse. As a consequence, what the doctor's 
hand converts to the preservation of our health becomes 
even to a greater degree, through its natural qualities, a 
means for providing food for others. Slumber is often induced, 
too, by the use of the mandrake, whenever the sick are 
troubled by their inability to sleep. Why need I speak of 
opium which has come to be used almost daily, inasmuch 
as severe intestinal pains are allayed by its use? And it has 
not escaped our notice that the ravings of the sensual 
passions frequently have been stayed by hemlock and that 
with hellebore the prolonged sufferings of a sick body have 
found relief. 

(40) The Creator, therefore, is not liable to blame in these 
matters; actually, His bounty is increased thereby, inasmuch 
as what you believed was created to bring danger to you is 
designed to bring to you health-giving remedies. That which 
leads to danger is directed otherwise by Providence and what 
is conducive to our health is not lost through our own 
prudence and industry. 

Is it true that, following a mysterious urge of nature, 
sheep and goats have learned to shun what is harmful to 
them and for this purpose are able to make use of smell 
alone, since they are devoid of reason? Do they not go so 
far as to recognize a way of avoiding danger and of protect- 
ing their health? Do they not distinguish between what is 
likely to be noxious and what will be beneficial? So true is 
this that they are said frequently to look for herbs known 
to them and to apply these as a remedy to a wound when 
they sense that they have been hit with poisoned weapons. 
Food, therefore, becomes for them a medicine. As a result, 
you may behold arrows in the act of falling from a wound. 



98 SAINT AMBROSE 

the poison actually vanishing and not adhering. Furthermore, 
poison is a food for stags. The snake flees a stag and slays a 
lion. The dragon winds himself around an elephant, whose 
downfall brings death to the victor. Thus, they both strive 
with their utmost strength, one to bind fast the other's foot 
so that the fall of the vanquished cannot harm him; the 
other, so that he may not be surprised in a narrow passage- 
way when trailing the herd and thus be caught by a hind 
leg. la such a situation the elephant would be unable to 
turn around and crush the dragon with his heavy foot or 
have the assistance of another elephant at his rear. 

(41) Therefore, if irrational animals know what herbs 
may serve as medicine or what methods may bring assistance 
to them, can man, who is born with the faculty of reason, 
be ignorant of this? Or is he such a stranger to truth that 
he cannot at all perceive what are the uses especially de- 
signed for everything? Or is he so ungrateful for the good 
things provided by nature that, because a draught of bull's 
blood is deadly to man, this laborious animal ought not for 
that reason be born or ought to be created without blood? 
Yet, he possesses a quality which is useful in the cultivation 
of the fields, adaptable for the service of ploughing and for 
sustenance, a precious possession. By his manifold uses he 
in a sound prop to farmers, for whom should they come 
to know their own blessings 3 God has created all things 
with the words: 'Let the earth bring forth the green herb 
and such as may seed after its kind.' 4 For He has included 
in this statement not only what contributes to the farmers' 
support from herbs, roots, trees and other plants which grow 
without seed, but He also includes such produce as is 
acquired by the industrious skill of the toiler of the fields. 

(42) How fitting is it that He did not command the earth 

3 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 2.458. 

4 Gen. 1.11. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 99 

generously to give forth seed and fruits, but ordained that 
the fields should first germinate and then bring forth plants. 
Next He bade the seed to grow according to the specific 
nature of its kind, so that at no time would the landscape be 
without its charm; first, the verdure of spring for our pleasure, 
and later the heaped-up piles of harvest for our use. 



Chapter 10 

(43) Perhaps someone might say: How does the earth 
produce seed according to its kind, when often the seed 
sown degenerates and, although good wheat was sown, the 
result is a wheat plant of a quality inferior in color and in 
form? If this ever happens, one should not attribute this 
deterioration to a change of species, but rather, it seems, to 
to some inferiority or some disease in the seed. It does not 
cease to be wheat if it has been blighted by frost or mildewed 
by rain. It has been changed in appearance rather than in 
kind, and also in color as a result of the corruption it has 
undergone. Hence, it frequently happens that mildewed 
grain returns to the appearance of its stock, if it is exposed 
to the heat of the sun or of fire, or if it is entrusted to care- 
ful cultivators, who cherish it by protecting it from in- 
clemencies of climate and foster it in soil that is fertile* 
In this way, what has suffered degeneration in the parent 
stock is restored in the next generation* Hence, there is no 
danger that the precept of God, to which nature has accus- 
tomed itself, may become void in future time by a failure of 
propagation, since today the integrity of the stock is still 
preserved in the seeds. 

(44) We know that cockle and the other alien seeds which 
often are interspersed among fruits of the earth are called 
'weeds' in the Gospel, These, however, belong to a special 



1 00 SAINT AMBROSE 

species and have not degenerated into another species by a 
process of mutation from the seed of the wheat plant. The 
Lord told us that this is so when He said : The kingdom of 
heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but 
while men were asleep, his enemy came an,d sowed weeds 
among the wheat. 5 We gather from this that weeds and wheat 
certainly seem to be distinct both in name and in kind. 
Hence, the servants, too, said to the householder: 'Sir, didst 
thou not sow good seed in thy field? How then does it have 
weeds? He said to them: "An enemy has done this." n One 
is the seed of the Devil; the other, that of Christ which is 
sown in accordance with justice. Therefore, the Son of Man 
sowed one and the Devil sowed the other. For that reason 
the nature of each is distinct, since the sowers are opposed. 
Christ sows the kingdom of God, whereas the Devil sows sin. 
How, therefore, can this kingdom be of one and the same 
race as sin? This is the kingdom of God/ He says, 'as though 
a man should cast seed into the earth.' 2 

(45) There is a Man who sows the word, of whom it is 
written: The sower sows the word.' 3 This Man sowed 
the word over the earth when He said : 'Let the earth bring 
forth the green herb, 5 and immediately the seeds came to 
birth and diverse were the species of things which shone 
forth in brilliance. At this point the fields in their beautiful 
green color furnished abundance of food; the yellowing ears 
of wheat in the fields suggested an image of the billowing 
sea in the waving of that rich harvest in the breeze. Of itself 
the earth brought forth profusely all kinds of fruits. Although 
it could not be ploughed in the absence of a cultivator 
for the farmer had not yet been created the earth, though 
unplowed, teemed with rich harvests, inasmuch as an in- 

1 Cl Matt. 3.24-27. 

2 Mark 4.26. 

3 Mark 4.14. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: THREE 101 

dolent husbandman did not have occasion to defraud the 
earth of its abundance. For each plant attains fertility 
according to the merits of the labor involved in the cultivation 
of the fields. Punishment is meted out for our neglect or 
remissness if the soil be deprived of its rich abundance 
either by flood or aridity, the fall of hailstones or by some 
other misfortune. Then, too., the earth everywhere brought 
forth spontaneously fruits of the soil, because He who is the 
fullness of the universe had so ordained it. 4 The word of God 
fructified on the earth and the earth had not,, because of any 
curse, suffered condemnation. The origins and birth of the 
world are more remote than our sins and more recent than 
our error, because of which we have been condemned to 
eat bread in the sweat of our face,' 5 and without sweat to 
be incapable of sustaining life. 

(46) Even today the fertility of the earth carries into 
effect its age-old fecundity by exercise of spontaneous growth, 
for you see how many plants are still grown without being 
sown. But even in much that is gathered by the labor of 
our hands there still remains a large part of our produce 
which, by the kindness of Providence, comes without effort 
to us while we are at rest. This we are taught by the reading 
of the Gospel before us, wherein the Lord says: 'This is the 
kingdom of God, as though a man should cast seed into the 
earth, then sleep and rise night and day and the seed should 
sprout and grow without his knowing it. For of itself the 
earth bears the crop, first the blade, then the ear, then the 
full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is ripe, immediately 
he puts in the sickle because the harvest has come. 36 There- 
fore, while you are asleep, man, and without your knowing 
it, the earth of itself produces its fruits. You fall asleep and 

4 Cf. Col. 1.19. 

5 Gen. 3.19. 

6 Mark 4.26-29. 



102 SAINT AMBROSE 

then rise, marveling how the grain has increased in the 
course of one night 



Chapter 11 

(47) We have often spoken concerning the green herb; 
now let us discuss the plant that bears fruit according to its 
kind, 'which may have seed in Its.elf. 31 ( He spoke and they 
were made/ 2 and immediately the earth was adorned with 
groves as formerly it had been decked with flowers and 
with the verdure of the grass of the fields. The trees were 
assembled; the forests arose and the peaks of the hills were 
clothed with leaves. Here the pine and there the cypress 
raised aloft their towering heads; the cedars and the pitch- 
pines gathered in groups. The fir tree also advanced in pro- 
cession, a tree which was not satisfied to have its roots In 
the earth and its head on high, but was destined., while 
mariners are safe, to undergo perils from wind and wave 
on the sea. The laurel, too, gave forth its scent as it rose, a 
shrub never to be denuded of its foliage. There aros;e, also, 
the shady evergreen oak, destined to preserve its shimmering 
even in winter time. For nature maintained in every case 
through future ages the prerogatives which had been Im- 
pressed on it at the moment of Creation. Hence, the ever- 
green oak and the cypress adhere to these prerogatives, so 
that no wind may despoil them of the adornment of their 
locks. 

(48) Mingling formerly with the flowers of the earth 
and without thorns, the rose, most beautiful of all flowers, 
displayed its beauty without guile; afterwards, the thorn 
fenced around this charming flower, presenting, as it were, 

1 Gen. 1.11. 

2 Fs. 32.9. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 103 

an image of human life in which what is pleasing in our 
activities is often acccompanied with the stings of anxieties 
which everywhere surround us. In fact, the elegance of our 
life is entrenched and hedged about by certain cares, so that 
sadness is close neighbor to beauty. Hence, when each one 
of us find joys either in the pleasing exercise of our reason 
or in the attainment of more than usual success in life, it is 
fitting that we should call to mind this sin of ours, by means 
of which there was Imposed upon us by rightful condemna- 
tion the mind's thorns and the spirit's brambles, when we 
were happily sojourning amid the delights of paradise, 
Although you may shine, man, with the splendor of nobility 
or by reason of your superior power or by the brilliance of 
your virtue, the thorn is ever close to you, the bramble is 
ever near you. Ever be mindful of what is beneath you. You 
blossom into life above a thorn and this beauty does not 
last for long. In a brief passage of time each and every one 
of us withers in the flower of his age. 



Chapter 12 

(49) In truth, while you realize that you possess frailty 
in common with the flowers, you know that you have access 
to delight in the, use of the vine, from which is produced 
wine, wherein the heart of man finds cheer. 1 Would that, 
man, you could imitate the example of this species of plant, 
so that you may bear fruit for your own joy and delight. 
In yourself lies the sweetness of your charm, from you does 
it blossom, in you it sojourns, within you it rests, in your 
own self you must search for the jubilant quality of your 

i cf. Ps. 103.15. 



104 SAINT AMBROSE 

conscience. For that reason He says: 'Drink water out of 
thine own cistern and the streams of thine own well.' 2 

First of all, there is nothing more pleasing than the scent 
of a blossoming vine. Furthermore, the juice when extracted 
from the flower of this vine produces a drink which is 
pleasureable and health-giving. Again, who does not marvel 
at the fact that from the seed of the grape springs forth a 
vine that climbs even as high as the top of a tree? The vine 
fondles the tree by embracing and binding it with the ten- 
tacles of its hands and arms, clothes it with vine leaves, 
and crowns it with garlands of grapes. In imitation of our 
life, the vine first plants deep its living roots; then, because 
its nature is flexible and likely to fall, it uses its tendrils like 
arms in order to hold tight whatever it seizes. By this means 
it raises itself and lifts itself on high. 3 

(50) Similar to this vine are the members of the Church, 
who are planted with the root of faith and are held in check 
by the vine-shoots of humility. On this subject the Prophet 
beautifully says: 'Thou hast brought a vineyard out of 
Egypt: thou plantest the roots thereof and it filled the land. 
The shadow of it covered the hills and the branches thereof 
the cedars of God. It stretched forth its branches unto the 
sea and its boughs unto the river.' 4 And the Lord Himself 
spoke through Isaias, saying: 'My beloved had a vineyard 
on a hill in a fruitful place. And I fenced it in and dug 
around the vine of Sorech and I built a tower in the midst 
thereof.' 5 He fenced it in with a rampart, as it were of 
heavenly precepts and with the angels standing guard, for 
'the angel of the lord shall encamp round about them that 
fear him. 36 He placed in the Church a tower, so to speak, 

2 Prov. 5.15. 

3 For the entire passage, cf. Cicero, De senectute 15.52. 

4 Ps. 79.9-12. 

5 Isa. 5.1,2. 

6 Ps. 33.8. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 105 

of Apostles, Prophets, and Doctors^ ready to defend the 
peace of the Church. He dug around it, when He had freed 
it from the burden of earthly anxieties. For nothing burdens 
the mind more than solicitude for the world and cupidity 
either for wealth or for power. 

There occurs an example of this in the Gospel, where we 
can read the story of the woman 'who had sickness caused 
by a spirit, and she was bent over, so that sh,e was unable 
to look upwards.' 7 Bent over, in fact, was her soul, which 
inclined to terrestrial rewards and possessed not heavenly 
grace. Jesus beheld her and addressed her; immediately 
she laid aside her earthly burdens. These people also were 
burdened with these cupidities to whom He addressed these 
words: 'Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened 
and I will give you rest. 58 And so the soul of that woman 
breathed once more and stood erect like a vine around which 
the soil has been dug and cleared. 

(51) But the same vine, after the soil has beein cleared 
around it, is raised up and bound, so that it may not bend 
back towards the ground. Some of the shoots are pruned; 
others are allowed to grow. Those branches which grow in 
aimless profusion are pruned; those which the good culti- 
vator reckons to be productive are permitted to grow. What 
need is there to describe the rows of stakes and the orderly 
process of binding the vine shoots? These operations teach 
us truly and clearly that equality should be observed in the 
Church, so that no man of wealth and high position should 
exalt himself and that no one who is poor and lowly should 
despair. Liberty is one and the same for all members of the 
Church; all men possess justice and favor in an impartial 
manner. 

For that reason the tower is placed in the middle, to serve 

7 Luke 13.11. 

8 Matt. 11.28. 



106 SAINT AMBROSE 

all around as an example of those countrymen and those 
fishermen who deserved to hold fast the fort of virtue. By 
their example our courage Is aroused and is not permitted 
to lie mean and despised on the ground. Rather, each and 
every one of us has his mind ,raised aloft to higher things 
so that he dares to say: 'But our citizenship is in heaven/ 8 
Hence, to prevent it from being bent and battered by the 
storms and tempests of the world, the vine holds in the em- 
brace of love, by means of tho^e tendrils and bonds of which 
we spoke, all that are near and finds rest in being joined 
with them. That is love, therefore, which binds us with 
things on high and plants us in heaven. Because 'he who 
abides in love, God abides in him.' Hence the Lord also 
says: 'Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot 
bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither 
can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are 
the branches. 510 

(52) It seems clear, therefore, that the example of the 
vine is designed, as this passage indicates, for the instruction 
of our lives. It is observed to bud in the mild warmth of 
early spring and next to produce fruit from the joints of the 
shoots, from which a grape is formed. This gradually in- 
creases in size, but it still retains its bitter taste. When, 
however, it is ripened and mellowed by the sun, it acquires 
its sweetness. Meanwhile, the vine is decked in green leaves 
by which it is protected in no slight manner from frosts and 
other injuries and is defended from the sun's heat. Is there 
any spectacle which is more pleasing or any fruit that is 
sweeter? 11 What a joy to behold the rows of hanging grapes 
like so many jewels of a beautiful countryside, to pluck those 
grapes gleaming in colors of gold or purple ! 

9 Phil. 3.20. 

10 John 4.16; 9.15, 

11 C. Cicero, De senectute 15.53. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION-: THREE 107 

You may notice that hyacinths and other gems are brilliant 
in color, how indigo gleams and how beautifully the pearl 
shines; still, you do not derive a warning from this, man, 
that your last day on earth should not find your fruit un- 
ripened or that the completion of your time of life should 
show but slight achievement. Unripened fruit is often bitter 
in taste. It cannot be sweet until it has grown to perfect 
maturity. A man perfect 1 in this manner will not ordinarily 
be harmed by the cold of dread death nor by the heat of the 
sun of iniquity, because a spiritual grace overshadows him, 
quelling the fires of cupidity for the things of this world and 
defending him from the lusts and the burning desires of the 
flesh. 

Let them praise you who behold you and let them admire 
the marshaled bands of the Church like the serried rows of 
vine branches, let everyone among the faithful gaze upon 
the gems of the soul, let them find delight in the maturity of 
prudence, in thje splendor of faith, in the charm of Christian 
affirmation, in the beauty of justice, in the fecundity of pity, 
so that it may be said of you : 'Thy wife is a fruitful vine on 
the sides of thy house,' 12 for the reason that you imitate by 
the exercise of your abundant and generous giving the 
plenteous return of a fruit-bearing vine. 



Chapter 13 

(53) But why do I linger in describing just the vine, when 
all species of trees have their utility? Some are created to 
provide fruit; others are granted for our use. Those which 
are not overproductive of fruit are nevertheless more valuable 
for the uses they serve. The cedar is suitable for constructing 
the roof of a house, because its .material is of such a kind as 

12 Ps, 127.3. 



108 SAINT AMBROSE 

to furnish both spacious length for the roof and a quality of 
lightness for the walls. For the construction of rafters and the 
adornment of the pediments the most adaptable wood is that 
of the cypress. Hence, the Church, too, tells us in the Can- 
ticles: "The beams of our houses are of cedar, our rafters 
of cypress trees/ 1 These words point to the beautiful adorn- 
ments of its pedimental structure, which, as beams do, up- 
hold by their excellent qualities the superstructure of the 
Church and give charm to its facade. 

The laurel and the palm are emblems of victory. The 
heads of victors are crowned with laurel; the palm adorns 
the victor's hand. Hence, the Church, too, says: I said: 
I will go up into the palm tree, I will take hold of the 
heights thereof/ 2 Seeing the sublimity of the Word and 
hoping to be able to ascend to its height and to the summit 
of knowledge, he says: *I will go up into the palm tree, 5 
that he may abandon all things that are low and strive after 
things that are higher, to the prize of Christ, in order that 
he may pluck its fruit and taste it, for sweet is the fruit of 
virtue. 

Again, what shall we say of the poplar, a tree that pro- 
vides shade for victorious crowns and for binding vines a 
flexible shoot. 3 What other mystical meaning has this, if not 
to stand for the goodness of the bonds of Christ? These 
bonds do not hurt they are the bonds of grace and of 
love, so that every person should glory in his bonds as Paul 
gloried in them when he said: Taul, a prisoner of Jesus 
Christ/ 4 When bound in these same bonds, those of self- 
denial and of love, he said : 'Who shall separate us from the 
love of Jesus Christ? 75 When bound also by these same bonds, 

1 Cant 1.16. 

2 Cant. 7.8. 

3 Cf. Virgil, Eclogues 3.83. 

4 Philcm. 1. 

5 Rom. 8.35. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 109 

David has said: 'On the willows in the midst thereof we 
hung up our instruments. 56 

The box-wood tree, because of its light material, trains 
the child's hand when it is used for forming the outlines 
of the letters of the alphabet. Hence Scripture says: * Write 
upon box/ 7 in order that you may be admonished by the 
wood itself (which is an evergreen and is never devoid of 
foliage) never to be deprived of the support of your hope, 
but rather that the hope of salvation may be generated by 
faith. 

(54) Why should I enumerate the great variety of trees, 
their particular diversities and beauties? Why speak of the 
wide-spreading beech tree, the slender fir, the leafy pine tree, 
the shady evergreen oak, the two-colored poplar, 8 the chestnut 
that loves the groves and ever tends to sprout again as soon 
as it is cut down? Why relate how in the trees themselves 
one can determine whether the tree is old or young? In the 
younger trees the branches are rather slender; in the older 
they are strong and gnarled; in the former, the leaves are 
smoother and are far apart; in the latter the leaves are 
rougher and more shriveled. There are trees which, because 
their roots are old and completely dead, are unable, if per- 
chance they are cut down, to reproduce themselves; others 
show a vigorous youth and a more productive nature; a 
thorough pruning is conducive to profit rather than to harm, 
so much so that they shoot forth anew and renew themselves 
in so many offshoots for generations. 

(55) There is another occasion for us to marvel at the 
fact that there is sex even in fruit and distinction of sex in 
trees. You may notice how the palm tree which produces 
dates often reaches towards and bends beneath that tree 

6 Ps. 136.2. 

7 Isa. 30.8. 

8 Cf. Virgil, Aefneid 8.276. 



110 SAINT AMBROSE 

which country children call the male palm, presenting In 
this act a spectacle of one eager for an embrace. That palm 
tree is female and betrays her sex by her appearance of sub- 
jection. Hence, cultivators of groves inject into its branches 
the seed of dates or of male palm trees, by which is Infused 
into that tree what may be called a sense of its function and 
sweetness of a desired marital embrace. After the perfor- 
mance of this rite it once more rises up and lifts its branches 
and elevates its foliage into their former state and condition. 

There is similar belief regarding the fig tree. For this 
reason many are said to plant the wild fig tree beside the 
cultivated and productive tree, because the fruit of the 
prolific cultivated fig tree, due either to wind or to heat, is 
said to fall to the ground. Hence, those acquainted with this 
method remedy this weakness on the part of the productive 
fig tree by binding it to the fruit of the wild fig, so that the 
cultivated tree is able to retain its own fruit, which would 
at any moment be likely to fall if this remedial procedure 
were not followed. 

From this mystery of nature we are admonished not to 
shun those who have been separated from our faith and from 
association with us. And so a Gentile who was converted 
can be all the more a passionate defender of the faith as he 
was formerly strong in upholding his error. And if one is a 
convert from heresy, he can be a stout supporter of that new 
faith to which he has turned after a change in his con- 
victions. Especially will this be true if he has been gifted by 
nature to give vivid expression to his opinions and if he finds 
support in his own moral tendencies toward temperance and 
chastity. Be lavish, therefore, in your attentions to him, in 
order that you may, like the productive fig tree, strengthen 
your own virtue as a result of the presence and juxtaposition 
of that other uncultivated tree. For in this way your moral 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 111 

purpose may not be weakened and the fruit of your zeal and 
grace will be preserved, 

(56) How many examples there are of phenomena wherein 
a natural hardness can be controlled by careful attention 
to detail in the art of cultivation. Frequently, pomegranates 
blossom quickly, but are unable to bear fruit without the 
careful application of remedial methods in the hands of ex- 
perts, when, as often happens, the juice disappears within 
the fruit, although it presents a healthy appearance ex- 
ternally. This phenomenon can not without reason be com- 
pared to the Church, to which it is applied in the words of 
the Canticle: 'Thy cheeks are as a piece of a pomegranate/ 
and further on : 'If the vineyard flourish, if the pomegranates 
flourish.' 9 For the Church presents to our eyes the brilliance 
of faith and man's adherence to it the Church, enhanced 
by the blood of so many martyrs and by what is more 
valuable still, by the blood of Christ; at the same time, in 
the possession of this pomegranate she preserves and in- 
cludes in one protecting shell plenteous fruit within, invol- 
ving manifold acts of virtue: the wise man conceals in his 
heart the good work he performs. 10 

It is said also that fruit growers apply remedial methods 
of this sort to the almond tree so as to render sweet the bitter- 
ness of its fruit. They bore a hole in the root of the tree and 
insert in the middle of it a shoot of that tree which the 
Greeks call itsuKT) and which we call the pitch-pine. When 
this is done, the bitter taste of its juice disappears. 

Accordingly, if the qualities of plants are changed by the 
process of agriculture, is it not possible to allay any sort of 
infirmity of the passions by a striving after knowledge and 
learning? Let no one, then, who is allured by youthful intem- 
perance despair of his conversion. Wood frequently is turned 

9 Cant. 4.3; 7.12. 
10 Cl. Prov. 11.13. 



112 SAINT AMBROSE 

to better uses; cannot the hearts of men be likewise changed? 

(57) We have shown that there exist different species of 
fruit among trees of diverse nature and likewise that the 
same kind of tree often produces fruit of a dissimilar charac- 
ter. The male species produces one kind, while the female 
furnishes us with another facts which we have already 
discussed in a preceding chapter in connection with dates. 

Who can comprehend the variety, the appearance, and 
the delightful qualities of fruits, the usefulness of each and 
every product of the soil, and the peculiar sap which seems 
appropriate to each one ; furthermore, how fruits of a rather 
bitter taste serve as medicine to heal our ailing stomachs 
by allaying swelling and rawness within; again, how the 
unhealthy humors of the body are modified by the sweet 
quality inherent in fruits? 

Hence, that art of medicine is older which can cure by 
the use of herbs and juices. No condition of health is founded 
on a firmer basis than that which is acquired by the aid of 
health-giving nourishment. Wherefore, following the guid- 
ance of nature we are led to believe that food is our sole 
medicine. It is certain that open sores are closed by the use 
of herbs; our internal ills are cured by herbs. For this reason 
physicians need to know the efficacy of herbs, for from this 
source the practice of medicine took its rise. 



Chapter 14 

(58) But to return to a discussion of the ordinary fruit: 
some there are which are ripened directly by the sun ; others 
reach maturity enclosed in a shell and hull. Apples, pears, 
and the various species of grape are all exposed naked to the 
sun. Walnuts and hazelnuts as well as the kernel of the pine- 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 113 

nut, although covered with a shell and hull, are nourished 
by the heat of the sun. However deeply the kernel of the 
pine-nut lies buried, it still is nourished by the sun's heat. 

(59) Such, then, is the providence of the Lord that, 
wherever the fruit is of a softer quality, there the thickness 
of the leaf presents in defense of the fruit a stouter protective 
covering, as we see, for example, in the fruit of the fig tree. 
The more delicate fruits, therefore, need a stronger defense, 
as the Lord Himself teaches us, speaking through the mouth 
of Jeremias: 'Like these good figs, so will I regard the cap- 
tives of Juda, whom I have sent forth out of this place into 
the land of the Chaldeans for their good. And I will set my 
eyes upon them for their good.' 1 For He surrounded His 
precious ones, as it were, with a stouter covering of His 
mercy, lest the tender fruit should perish before its time. 
And so, too, He says of them in a later passage : 'My delicate 
ones have walked rough ways. 3 To these He speaks further 
on: 'Be constant, my children, and cry to the Lord.' 2 Against 
all storms and injuries this is the sole and inviolable protec- 
tion and impenetrable defense. 

Where, therefore, there is tender fruit, there is found a 
thicker covering and protection furnished by the leaves. On 
the other hand, where the fruit is sturdier, there the leaves 
are more delicate, as we see in the case of the apple tree. 
In the case of the sturdier apple there is not much need for 
protection to aid it, for the very thickness of the protective 
shade would serve rather to bring injury to its fruit. 

(60) Then, again, the beauty of nature and the profound 
mysteries of divine wisdom are manifested to us by the leaf 
of the vine. We note that it is so divided into parts as to 
present the appearance of three leaves. The middle part is 
so distinct that it seems to the onlooker to be a separate 

1 Jer. 24.5,6. 

2 Bar. 4.26.27. 



114 SAINT AMBROSE 

piece., were it not for the fact that it forms a juncture with 
the lower parts. This seems to follow a natural principle in 
that it both admits the sunlight more easily and furnishes 
shade. Then, the middle part of the leaf extends itself and 
becomes more narrow at the top as it grows, so that it offers 
more natural beauty than protection. For this reason it seems 
to present the form of the prize of a victor at the games, 
indicating that the grape holds the first place among the 
other species of hanging fruit. By the silent judgment of 
nature and, furthermore, by its clear decision the grape 
comes into being as the natural form and emblem of victory. 
The vine leaf, therefore, carries its prize with it, Inasmuch 
as it furnishes defense for itself against the inclemencies of 
the air and the violence of storms, while at the same time It 
presents no obstacle to the reception of the sun's heat from 
which the grape receives warmth and coloring, growth, and 
increase. 

The fig leaf, too, not unlike the vine leaf, is divided into 
four parts. This fact appears all the more clearly because of 
Its larger leaf, although its extremities have not the pointed 
character of the vine leaf. Whereas the leaf of the fig is strong- 
er and thicker, that of the vine presents a more elegant form. 
The thickness of the fig leaf serves to ward off injury due to 
storms, while its cleft nature permits the fruit to profit from, 
warmth. Again, this species of fruit feels the force of hail 
storms less, but reaches maturity quicker, because it seems 
to hide away from injuries and at the same time to lie open 
to fostering influences. 

(61) Why should I describe the different kinds of leaves, 
how some are round and others, longer; how some are 
flexible and others, more rigid; how some leaves do not fall 
readily, no matter how strong the wind, and how others are 
shaken off even by a slight motion of the wind? 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 115 

Chapter 15 

(62) It would be an endless task to inquire into the 
properties of each and every thing, either to distinguish diver- 
sities by presenting clear evidence for such or to reveal by 
unfailing proof concealed and hidden causes. For example, 
water is one and the same substance, yet it often changes into 
various forms. Water assumes a yellow color in sand; it 
becomes foamy amid rocks. It has a green aspect in the midst 
of groves and presents various colors in a region of flowers, 
becoming brighter among lilies and ruddier amid roses. Water 
in a grassy region is clearer, but more turbid in marshy places, 
At its source a stream is more limpid, while sea water is dark- 
er. We see, therefore, that water assumes the color of the 
places through which it flows. 

In like manner, too, water undergoes changes due to tem- 
perature: in heated places it becomes hot, in shady regions 
it becomes cool; when exposed to the sun, water acquires 
excess of heat; when snow falls, it assumes a white color in 
the form of ice. And what a change takes place in its very 
taste ; at one time it is somewhat sharp, at another somewhat 
bitter; at times it is rather harsh, at times somewhat tart, and 
then again rather sweet. These variations are due to the 
qualities of the substance with which water has been mixed. 
It becomes bitter because of the infusion of immature juices, 
as when the shells of nuts are pounded and when leaves are 
disintegrated. Water becomes bitter by the infusion of worm- 
wood, becomes stronger from an admixture of wine and more 
tart when garlic is added; it becomes heavy or sweet as the 
result of the addition of poison or honey. In fact, if the 
mastick tree and the fruit of the turpentine tree or the kernel 
of nuts are infused with water, the resulting mixture can 
readily take on the filmy nature of oil. 

While water supplies nourishment to all plants, it contrib- 



116 SAINT AMBROSE 

utes in diverse ways its useful quality to each. If it waters 
the roots or rains on them from the clouds, it confers distinct 
strength to all : the root grows in size, the trunk is enlarged, 
the branches are extended, the leaves become green, the 
seeds are nourished, and the fruit is likely to increase in 
number. And so, although water is the nurse of all things, 
the sap of some species of tree as a result its activity is made 
somewhat bitter; another becomes sweeter; still others be- 
come either sluggish or quick in action. In their quality of 
sweetness, too, plants manifest differences one with the other. 
The vine has one type of sweetness, the olive, another; there 
is a difference between the cherry and the fig; the apple has a 
distinctive quality and the date is different from the rest. 

(63) Even to the touch waters appear at one time smooth, 
at another, rough. They often give the impression of having 
oil on their surfaces. Water differs, too, in weight as frequent- 
ly as in appearance, for in many places it is considered some- 
what heavy; in other places, light. No wonder, therefore, if 
water, while it presents differences in itself, varies also in 
respect to the quality of the gum of the trees which is gener- 
ated by the intake of the same water. 

The gum of the cherry tree differs in quality from that 
which exudes from the mastick tree. Also, it is known that 
the sweet-smelling woods of the Orient distil a drop of balsam 
of unlike nature. The twigs of the fennel in Egypt and in 
Libya exude also by some secret process of nature a distinct 
kind of gum. Why should I relate to you, without burdening 
you with my discourse, the fact that amber is something 
which exudes from a shrub and that the gum hardens to 
form a solid mass of such precious material? This account 
is supported by evidence of no inconsiderable value, since 
leaves or very small fragments of twigs or certain tiny species 
of insects are often found in amber. The drop of amber while 
still in a more fluid state seems to have laid hold of these 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 117 

objects and to have retained them when the material had 
solidified, 1 

( 64 ) But why do I with my indifferent discourse vie with 
the high and priceless principles of nature, since this discourse 
springs from the human intellect, whereas divine Providence 
has created the nature of all things? Hence, the reins of my 
diffuse discourse should, as it were, be checked, 2 lest I may 
seem to usurp the wisdom divinely conferred on Solomon 
in the Scriptures in expounding the 'diversities of plants and 
the virtues of roots and all such things as are hid and not 
foreseen.' 3 Yet, these things were not revealed by him in a 
clear light. In my opinion he would very likely have been 
able to discourse on the various species of plants, 4 yet he 
would not have been able to expound fully the nature of 
all created things. 



Chapter 26 

(65) But if the harvests are often more joyous as a result 
of a plentiful supply of water, 1 if the leguminous plants 
become green and the manifold beauty of gardens is roused 
and revivified; if the banks of overflowing rivers become 
resplendent with their verdant cushions, 2 how much more 
effective is the Word of God than any water course in 
causing every plant suddenly to burst into flower! Then the 
plains hastened to bring forth fruit not entrusted to them, 
gardens were supplied with all manner of vegetables hitherto 
unknown, and flowers began to germinate in a marvelous 

1 Cf. Pliny, Historia naturalis 27.43,46. 

2 Cf, Virgil, Georgics 2,541,542. 

3 Wisd. 7.20,21. 

4 Cf. 3 Kings 4.33. 



1 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 1.1. 

2 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 6.674. 



118 SAINT AMBROSE 

manner. The banks of streams began to vest themselves 
in myrtle. The trees made haste to rise; quickly they clothed 
themselves in flower, 3 furnishing sustenance for men and 
food for animals. Fruit became the common property of all; 
its enjoyment is offered to all. A twofold gift is presented 
by trees: at one and the same time we are granted nourish- 
ment for our bodies and a means of warding off the sun's 
rays in the cool of their shade; the fruit provides food and 
the leaves give us occasion for enjoyable living. 

However, because the providence of the Creator foresaw 
that man in his greed would claim the fruit especially for 
himself, He took care that the rest of living creatures would 
be given their special nourishment. And so food of no in- 
considerable amount was provided for them from the leaves 
and bark of forest trees. What would avail for medical pur- 
poses was provided for both equally: that is, the sap, gum, 
and young shoots of plants. Hence, the Creator has com- 
manded from the beginning to come forth from the bowels 
of the earth by the might of His providence those plants 
which we have later by experiment, use, and example found 
to be useful, for God destined them for the purpose for 
which they were adapted. 

(66) And the Lord commanded: 'Let the earth bring 
forth the green herb and the fruit tree yielding fruit after 
its kind, whose seed is in it,' 4 lest someone may say that 
neither fruit nor seed appears in many trees and lest a per- 
son may think that the divine command is faulty in some 
respect, by which, in fact, truth may be called into question. 
Let such a person take note that it can never happen that 
all things that grow should not eventually spring up out 
of seeds or possess some qualities which seem to be in keeping 
with the vital power of seeds. If we pay particular attention 

3 Cf. Virgil, Georgia 1.187. 

4 Gen. 1.1. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 119 

to this matter, our understanding of the facts will be aided 
by the clarity of the evidence. For example, willow trees do 
not seem to have seeds, but they have in their leaves a kind 
of kernel which has the efficasy of a seed. When this is com- 
mitted to the earth, there arises a tree as if it came from a 
planted sucker. It comes to life as if from a seed. From that 
kernel a root is truly formed. From the root not only is the 
willow developed, but there grows a forest of other trees of 
like kind. The root, too, has the generative quality of a seed; 
hence, many have propagated their groves by such a process 
as this. 

(67) The power of God is great in everything. Let no 
one wonder if I have stated that the power of God is great 
in plants, since He has said that His power was great in the 
locusts and in the bruchus, 5 for the reason that by the afflic- 
tion of sterility and famine they punished the offenses to His 
divine majesty. For great is the power of His patience; great, 
too, of His providence. Unworthy were they who had injured 
the Creator of the earth to enjoy earth's f ruitf ulness ! And 
He is truly great in avenging such great impiety with misery 
and famine. Hence, if the earth brought forth the sterile 
bruchus by the mighty power of God, how much greater is 
the power which brings into being that which is fertile! 

(68) Who on seeing a pine cone would not marvel at 
the art that is indelibly impressed on nature by the com- 
mand of God and at the fact that, although -extended at un- 
equal lengths, the sheath arises from the center core in 
homogeneous fashion, whereby it protects its own fruit. Hence 
it preserves the same appearance and arrangement all around. 
And in every place there is a surplus of kernels and in the 
circle of the year there comes the blessing of the fruit. There- 
fore, in this pine cone nature seems to express an image of 
itself; it preserves its peculiar properties which it received 

5 A kind of locust without wings. 



_ 1 20 SAINT AMBROSE 

from that divine and celestial command and it repeats in the 
succession and order of the years its generation until the end 
of time is fulfilled. 

(69) But as in this fruit nature imprints a pleasing repre- 
sentation of itself, so, too, in the tamarisk, that is, in the 
humble plants, 6 nature has impressed an image of its un- 
relenting artfulness. For, just as there are men everywhere 
who are double-dealers at heart, who, while they show 
themselves to be gracious and unaffected in the presence of 
good men, cleave to those who are most vicious so in a 
similar way these plants have a contrary tendency to spring 
up in both well-watered regions and in desert lands. That is 
why Jeremias compared dubious and insincere characters 
to tamarisks. 7 

Chapter 17 

(70) 'Let the earth bring forth/ God said, and immedi- 
ately the whole earth was filled with growing vegetation. 
And to man it was said: 'Love the Lord thy God,' 1 yet the 
love of God is not instilled in the hearts of all. Deafer are 
the hearts of men than the hardest rock. The earth, in com- 
pliance with its Author, furnishes us with fruit which is not 
owed to us; we deny the debt when we do not give homage 
to the Author. 

(71) Behold the providence of God in little things and, 
because you are unable to comprehend it, marvel at the 
fact that He has kept some plants always in foliage while 
He desired that others undergo changes by being deprived 
of their vesture. The earth preserves its verdure amid the 

6 Cf. Virgil, Eclogues 4,2. 

7 Jer. 17.6. 



1 Deut. 6.5; Matt. 22.37. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 121 

white snow and the cold hoar frost, 2 and, although hidden 
in ice, its offspring still preserve no slight trace of their 
viridity. 

Those species of trees, also, which are clothed in evergreen 
foliage have not inconsiderable differences. The olive and 
the pine always preserve their vesture. Nevertheless, they 
change their leaves frequently, displaying them, not as some- 
thing permanent, but as successive adornments of their tree. 
The apparentely unbroken nature of their garb they thus 
dissimulate by such an interchange. Again, the palm remains 
always green by reason of the retentive and enduring qual- 
ities of its foliage, not because of any change. For the leaves 
which it first produced continue to perpetuate themselves 
without recourse to substitution. 

Imitate the palm, man, so that it may be said also to you : 
Thy stature is like a palm tree. 53 Preserve the verdure of 
your childhood and of that natural innocence of youth 
which you have received from the beginning, and may you 
possess the fruits, prepared in due time, of what was planted 
along the course of the waters and may there be no fall 
to your leaf! 

To this verdure of grace everflooirishing in Christ the 
Church refers in saying: C I sat down under his shadow 
whom I desired.' 4 The Apostles received this privileged gift 
of verdure, whose leaves could never fall, so as to provide 
shade for the healing of the sick. 5 Their fidelity of heart and 
the superabundance of their merits provided shade for bodily 
infirmities. Remain, therefore, planted in the house of the 
Lord so as to flourish like a palm in His halls, whence the 
grace of the Church may ascend for you and 'the odor of 

2 Of. Virgil, Georgics 2.376. 

3 Cant 7.7. 

4 Cant. 2.3. 

5 Gf. Acts 5.15. 



122 SAINT AMBROSE 

thy mouth may be like apples and thy throat like the best 
wine/ so that you may be inebriated in Christ. 6 

(72) This verse serves to remind us that we should take 
up once more our subject wherein it was stated that the 
vine, too, blossomed forth by the command of God, This vine, 
we know, was planted by Noe after the flood. We read, in 
fact, that 'Noe, a husbandman, began to till the ground and 
planted a vineyard and drank of his wine and slept, 57 Noe, 
therefore, was not the author of the vine, but of its planting, 
for he could not have planted it unless he had already found 
it fully grown. He is just the cultivator, therefore, of the 
vine. Its Author, God, who knew that wine fostered health 
and sharpened wits when taken sparingly, but led to vice if 
used immoderately, has given us this plant in the act of 
creation. Excess of wine He set aside as an exercise for 
man's will to the extent that nature's parsimony might in- 
culcate in him the lesson of sobriety and that man might 
ascribe to himself the harm due to excess and the sin of in- 
toxication. In fact, Noe himself was intoxicated and slept 
under the influence of wine, 8 so we see that he who attained 
to such glory through the flood exposed himself to unsight- 
liness because of his misuse of wine. But the Lord has re- 
tained in the vine the privileges due to His creation, so that 
He converted its fruit for our salvation and made it possible 
that remission of our sins should emerge from this plant. 9 

Hence, Isaac spoke reverently when he said: 'The smell 
of Jacob is the smell of a plentiful field,' 10 that is, a natural 
odor. For what is sweeter than a plentiful field, what is more 
delightful than the perfume of the vine, what is more pleasing 

6 Cant. 7.8.9; 5.1. 
1 Gen. 9.20,21. 
% Ibid. 

9 Matt. 26.28. 
10 Gen. 27.27. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : THREE 1 23 

than the blossom of the bean? Hence, before us a certain 
writer 11 has ingeniously said: 'The patriarch did not per- 
ceive the odor of vine or fig or fruit, but he breathed the 
perfume of virtue.' I for my part hold to the following 
interpretation: the odor of the land, unmixed and pure, 
infused not with guile, but with the truth of celestial in- 
dulgence, stands for the beauty of a prayer which blesses. 
Hence, what the Lord confers on us from the dew of heaven 
so as to give strength to the vine, to the olive and to the 
grain may be reckoned among our most precious benedictions. 
To Him be honor, praise, and glory everlasting, from the 
beginning of time, now, always, and for ever. Amen. 

11 Perhaps Hippolytus or Origen; cf. Philo, Quaestiones in Gen. 4.214. 




BOOK IV: THE FOURTH DAY 



THE SIXTH HOMILY 



Chapter 1 

\ o PREVENT DETERIORATION of wine it is customary for 
those who gather in the vintage to first clean the 
vessels before the wine is poured in. For of what 
avail is it 'to plant the vine in rows,' 1 to loosen the earth 
each year or to make furrows with a plough, to prune or to 
tie back the shoots and join them in marriage, as it were, to 
the elms, 2 if after such toil the wine stored away in the 
vessels becomes sour? In like manner, if a person desires to 
behold the sun rising in the morning, he proceeds to cleanse 
his eyes, lest there be within any speck of dust or dirt which 
would dull the observer's eyesight or prevent any misty 
darkness from obscuring the vision of the spectator. 

In our reading of the Scripture passage, the sun, which 
before this did not exist, has now to arise. We have now 
passed the first day without a sun, and the second and the 

1 Virgil, Eclogues 1.74. 

2 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 1.2. 

125 



126 SAINT AMBROSE 

third days we have completed still without a sun. On the 
fourth day God bade the luminaries of the heavens to be 
created: the sun, the moon and stars. The sun begins to 
arise. Cleanse, now, the eyes of your mind and the inward 
gaze of your soul, lest any mote of sin dull the keenness of 
your mind and disturb the aspect of your pure heart. Cleanse 
your ear, in order that you may receive the clear flow of 
holy Scripture in a clean receptacle, so that no impurity 
may enter therein. With its great splendor the sun precedes 
the day, filling the world with its great light, encompassing 
it with warm exhalations, 

Be on your guard against stressing merely the magnitude 
of the sun. Its excessive brilliance may blind the eyes of your 
mind, as happens in the case of one who directs his sight 
directly at its beams. Because of the deflection of light, such 
a person is suddenly bereft of his sight and, if he does not 
turn his face and eyes in another direction, he is led to 
believe that nothing is visible and that he is deprived of his 
powers of vision. However, if he turns his eyes aside, their 
functional operation remains unimpaired. 

See, therefore that the rays of the rising sun do not trouble 
your sight. For that reason, look first upon the firmament of 
heaven which was made before the sun; look first upon, the 
earth which began to be visible and was already formed 
before the sun put in its appearance; look at the plants of the 
earth which preceded in time the light of the sun. The 
bramble preceded the sun; the blade of grass is older than 
the moon. Therefore, do not believe that object to be a god 
to which the gifts of God are seen to be preferred. Three days 
have passed. No one, meanwhile, has looked for the sun, 
yet the brilliance of light has been in evidence everywhere. 
For the day, too, has its light which is itself the precursor of 
the sun. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FOUR 127 

( 2 ) Do not, therefore, without due consideration put your 
trust in the sun. It is true that it is the eye of the world, 3 the 
joy of the day, the beauty of the heavens, the charm of 
nature and the most conspicuous object in creation. 4 When 
you behold it, reflect on its Author. When you admire it, 
give praise to its Creator. 

If the sun as consort of and participant in nature is so 
pleasing, how much goodness is there to be found in that 
'Sun of Justice 3 ? 5 If the sun is so swift that in its rapid course 
by day and night it is able to traverse all things, how great 
is He who is always and everywhere and fills all things with 
His majesty ! 6 If that which is bidden to come forth is deemed 
worthy of our admiration, how much more does He surpass 
our admiration of whom we read: 'Who commandeth the 
sun and it riseth not' ! 7 If the sun which the succession of the 
seasons advances or recedes 8 is mighty, how mighty must He 
be, also, who, 'when he emptied himself 9 that we might be 
able to see Him who e was the true light that enlightens every 
man who comes into this world' ! 10 If the sun which from the 
interposition of the earth often undergoes eclipses is an 
extraordinary object, how surpassing is the majesty of Him, 
who says: Tet one little while and I will move the heaven 
and the earth' ! n The former is hidden by the earth, which 
in its turn cannot sustain the influence of the Lord except 
when it is supported by the reality of His will. If the blind 
suffer loss by being deprived of beholding the beauty of the 
sun, how great is the loss of the sinner who, despoiled of the 

3 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.197,228. 

4 Cf. Mullach, Frag. phil. graec. I 518 vs. 25 and 513 vs. 12 (secundus) . 

5 Mai. 3.4. 

6 Ps. 71.19. 

7 Job 9.7. 

8 See Dante, Paradiso 10.28-30. 

9 Phil. 2.7. 

10 John 1.9. 

11 Agg. 2.7. 



128 SAINT AMBROSE 

gift of the true light, is subject to the darkness of night 
eternal ! 

(3) When, therefore, you see the sun, take note, too, of 
the green earth which was formed before it; take note of 
the green herb which holds priority in rank; take note of the 
woods which nod their approval, because they came into 
being before the light of heaven. Do you think for a moment 
that the herb is greater than the sun or that the woods hold 
a position of preference? Far be it from us to prefer things 
that have no feeling to Him who is the provider of such a 
spectacle! What else, therefore, does 'the depth of the wis- 
dom and the knowledge of God' 12 have in view when the 
woods came into being before these two luminaries of the 
world 13 (those eyes, as it were, of the celestial firmament), 
unless it is that all might recognize by the testimony of holy 
Scripture that without the aid of the sun the earth can be 
productive? The earth which could cause the first seeds of 
things to germinate without the aid of the sun can surely 
nourish the seeds provided for it and can, without the heat 
of the sun, bring forth offspring by its own fostering care. 

(4) With the voice, so to speak, of her gifts does Nature 
cry out: Good, indeed, is the sun, but good only in respect 
of service, not of command; good, too, as one who assists 
at my fecundity, not as one who creates; good, also, as the 
nourisher of my fruits, not as one who is the author of them. 
At times the sun burns up my produce and often is the 
cause of injury to me, leaving me in many places with- 
out provision. I am not ungrateful to my fellow servant, one 
who is granted to me for my use, subject like me to toil, to 
vanity, and to the service of corruption ! With me he groans, 
with me he is in travail, in order that there may come the 
adoption of sons and the redemption of the human race by 

12 Rom. 11.33. 

13 See Virgil, Georgics 1.5,6. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 129 

which we, too, may be freed from servitude. 14 By my side 
he praises the Author; along with me he sings a hymn to the 
Lord God. Where his beauty is most pronounced, there I 
have common cause with him. Where the sun blesses, there 
the earth blesses, also; 15 with me share their blessings the 
fruit-bearing trees, the flocks and birds. At sea the sailor 
reproaches the sun and longs for me. In the hills the shep- 
herd shuns him and hastens to my foliage, to my trees, 
under whose shadow he may find comfort in the heat, and 
hastens to my springs when he is thirsty and fatigued. 



Chapter 2 

(5) But in case the evidence presented to your eyes may 
appear to be scanty, cleanse your ear and apply it to the 
heavenly oracles: 'On the word of two or three witnesses 
every word is confirmed. 51 Hear God speaking: 'Let there 
be lights made in the firmament of heaven to give light upoii 
the earth. 32 

Who says this? God says it. And to whom is He speaking, 
if not to His Son? Therefore, God the Father says: 'Let the 
Sun be made, 3 and the Son made the sun, for it was fitting 
that the 'Sun of Justice' should make the sun of the world. 3 
He, therefore, brought it to light. He illuminated it and 
granted it the power of light. Therefore the sun was made; 
for this reason it is also a subject, since it has been said: 
'Thou hast foundeth the earth and it continueth. By thy 
ordinance the day goeth on: for all things serve thee.' 4 

14 Cf. Rom. 8.21,22. 

15 Cf. Ps. 148.3; Dan. 3.62. 

1 Matt. 18.16. 

2 Gen. 1.14. 

3 CL Mai. 4.2. 

4 Ps. 118.90,91. 



130 SAINT AMBROSE 

In truth, since day serves, wherefore does not the sun which 
\vas made in the presence of the day also serve? Wherefore 
do not they serve, too, the moon and the stars which were 
made in the power of the night? 5 Surely the greater the 
beauty which the Creator has granted to them as, for 
instance, an unusual brightness is bestowed on the air by the 
brilliance of the sun, the day has a serener light, and the 
darkness of night is illuminated by the flashing rays of the 
sun and stars, the sky twinkles with its ignited lamps as if 
crowned with flowers, reminding one of a paradise in bloom, 
resplendent with living garlands of sweet-smelling roses 
the greater the beauty, then, which seems to have been 
granted to these, the greater is the debt they owe : 'To whom 
much is given, much is required.' 6 And so the sun has been 
well called by many the adornment of the sky, the precious 
jewels of which are the stars. 

(6) Furthermore, that we may know that the fertility 
of the earth is not to be ascribed to the heat of the sun, but 
should be assigned to the goodness of God, the Prophet 
says: 'They all look to you to give them food in due time. 
When you give it to them, they gather it; when you open 
your hand, they are filled with go6d things.' And further on: 
'When you send forth your spirit, they are created and you 
renew the face of the earth/ 7 And in the Gospels: 'Look at 
the birds of the sky: they do not sow or reap; yet your 
heavenly Father feeds them.' 8 The sun and moon are not, 
therefore, authors of fecundity, but God the Father through 
the Lord Jesus bestows on all things the gift of freedom of 
fertility. 

(7) The Prophet has beautifully expounded the meaning 
of those words of his: 'God made the sun to rule the day 

5 Cf. Ps. 135.8,9. 

6 Luke 12.48. 

7 Ps. 103.27,28. 

8 Matt. 6.26. 



six DAYS OP CREATION: FOUR 131 

and the moon to rule the night. 59 For in the same Psalm 103 
mentioned above he wrote: 'You made the moon to mark 
the season; the sun knows the hour of its setting.' 10 When the 
day begins to complete its hours, the sun recognizes that 
its setting is due. The sun is, therefore, in the power of the 
day and the moon is in the power of the night, which must 
accommodate itself to the changes of time; now it is filled with 
light, and again is devoid of it. 

Most authors seem, indeed, to interpret this passage 
mystically of Christ and the Church, maintaining that Christ 
had knowledge of His passion in the body when He said: 
'Father, the hour has come! Glorify thy Son,' 11 so that by 
this His setting He might grant eternal life to all men who 
were threatened with eternal death, and that the Church 
may have her seasons, namely, of persecution and of peace. 
The Church, like the moon, seems to lose light, but she does 
not. She can be cast in shadow, but she cannot lose her light. 
For example, the Church is weakened by the desertion of some 
in time of persecution, but is replenished by the witness of her 
martyrs. Wherefore, glorified by the victories of blood shed 
for Christ, she may pour forth all the more abundantly over 
the entire world the light of her devotedness and her faith. 

In fact, the moon undergoes a diminution of its light, not, 
however, of its mass, at the time when it seems to give up its 
light in the course of the month, so that it may borrow from 
the sun. This phenomenon can be easily observed when the 
atmosphere is pure and transparent and no cloud passes before 
the moon, rendering it obscure. The orb of the moon remains 
intact, although the whole of it does not shine as does a part 
of it. Its size is the same as it usually appears when it is filled 
with light. A certain shadow makes it appear that the moon 

9 PS. 135.8. 

10 Ps. 103.19. 

11 John 17.1. 



132 SAINT AMBROSE 

is bereft of light. Hence, it is only the horns that shine. The 
moon's form is circular: this fact reveals itself, even if its light 
is partly diminished. 

Chapter 3 

(8) This statement can give us occasion for thought: 'Let 
there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate 
day from night, 51 because it had already been said, when 
God created the light, that 'God separated the light from 
the darkness and there was evening and morning, the first 
day.' 2 

But let us reflect on the fact that the light of day is one 
thing and the light of the sun and moon and stars another, 
for the reason that the sun itself with its rays appears to 
add to its brilliance to the light of day. This can be seen 
at the dawn of day or at its setting. There is daylight, in 
fact, before the rising of the sun, but it is far from being 
brilliant. The light gleams forth more resplendently, of 
course, when the sun is at noon. This is pointed out by the 
Prophet when he says: 'And he will bring forth thy justice 
as the light and thy judgment as the noonday.' 3 He compares 
the justice of the saint not merely to light: he means the 
light of midday. 

(9) Therefore, God ordained that there should not be 
just one indication by which to distinguish day from night. 
He established two signs by which light should be divided: 
one at the rising of the sun and another at its setting. Like- 
wise, the rising of the stars would mark the division between 
the setting of the sun and the beginning of night. When the 

1 Gen. 1.14,15. 

2 Gen. 1.4,5. 

3 Ps. 36.6. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 133 

sun has set, there still remains some remnant of daylight until 
darkness covers the earth. Then the moon rises and the 
stars. It is very evident that the extent of the night is meas- 
ured by the illumination of the moon and stars, since the 
sun on its rising causes the glitter of the moon and of all the 
stars to be invisible by day. As to the day, even the burning 
rays of the sun can inform us that daylight and sunlight 
differ both in their nature and in their aspect. The aspect 
of daylight is uncompounded : it merely furnishes light. The 
sun, on the other hand, not merely has the power of illum- 
inating; it has also the power of heating. The sun is fiery, 
and fire both illuminates and burns* 

Hence, when God wished to show to Moses His marvelous 
power for the purpose of stirring him to greater zeal in His 
service and of inflaming his heart to belief, He appeared 
to Moses in a flaming bush. 4 But the bush was not afire; 
it appeared merely to shine with the appearance of fire. 
One function of fire, therefore, was void, the other was in 
operation. The power of kindling was lacking, though the 
power of illumination was functioning. And so Moses mar- 
veled that fire, contrary to its nature, did not burn the 
bush, since this was an element which usually consumes 
materials of a more solid nature. The fire of the Lord illum- 
inates, not consumes. 

(10) Still, you perhaps may say, wherefore is it written: 
*I am a consuming fire'? 5 Your suggestion is a good one, God 
usually consumes only the sinful. Even in the retributions 
dispensed to men in accordance with their merits we perceive 
the nature of divine fire. It illuminates some and consumes 
others. It illuminates the just and consumes the wicked. It 
does not illuminate the same people which it consumes. 

4 Cf. Exod. 3.2. 

5 Deut. 4.24. 



1 34 SAINT AMBROSE 

Rather, its illumination is inextinguishable in the direction 
of its performance toward the good, whereas its power of 
consumption is mighty to punish the sinner. 

(11) But let us return to the division between day and 
night. At the coming of daylight, night is put to flight. At the 
departure of daylight, night appears everywhere. There is no 
association between light and darkness, since the Lord set 
this down as a principle at the beginning of His work. When, 
He made the light, He made a distinction between light 
and darkness. Accordingly, in clear daylight, when the sun 
has sprinkled its rays upon the earth, 6 we see how the shadow 
of an object, man, or plant is separated from the light. We 
note how in the morning this shadow falls toward the west, 
while in the evening it turns toward the east and in midday 
toward the north. Nevertheless, the shadow is a thing apart 
and has nothing in co-mmon with the light. In a similar way, 
night seems to yield to daylight and to verge away from its 
light. In fact, as has been pointed out by more expert authors 
who have precedence over us whether in time or in ability, 
night is a shadow of the earth. 

The shadow adheres and stays close to the body in accord- 
ance with nature, so much so that artists strive to depict the 
shadows of objects in their paintings. They maintain that it 
is the -province of art not to ignore a quality inherent in 
nature. An artist whose painting does not represent the 
requisite shadows may be likened to one who contravenes 
the natural law. When, then, an object in daylight happens 
to face the sun, there arises a shadow of that part from which 
the sunlight is deflected. In the same way, at sunset, when 
the earth stands in the way of the light of day or of the sun- 
light, there is an effect of shadow. Hence it is clear that 
night is caused by the shadow of the earth. 

6 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 9.461. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 135 

Chapter 4 

(12) God made the sun, moon, and stars, and allotted 
to them the measurement of time, the sun for the daytime 
and the moon and stars for night. The former augments the 
beauty of the day; the latter illumine the shadow and the 
darkness: 'Let them serve as signs and for the fixing of 
seasons, days and years.' 1 The sun, moon, and stars divide 
time in diverse fashion, but in an equal manner in respect 
to changes based on months, and 'they serve as signs' for 
them, also. We cannot deny that some signs are formed from 
the sun and moon together. The Lord said: 'And there will 
be signs in the sun, moon and stars.' 2 And when the Apostles 
asked for a sign of His coming, He replied : 'The sun will be 
darkened and the moon will not give her light and the stars 
will fall from heaven.' 3 These, He said, were to be the signs 
of a fulfillment in the future, but for us in our anxiety these 
should serve as an appropriate measure of time. 

(13) In fact, some men have attempted to set down the 
characteristics of birth days and the future state of each new- 
born child. Yet a prognostication of this sort is both vain 
and useless to those who seek it and is an impossibility for 
those who promise it. What is so inane as to suppose that 
everyone should be convinced that he is what his birth has 
made him? No one, then, ought to change his condition of 
life and his habits or striye to become better, but, rather, 
remain in that conviction. In which case you cannot com- 
mend the good nor condemn the wicked, since each seems 
to comply with the destiny of his birth. And wherefore has 
the Lord laid down rewards for the good or punishment for 
the wicked if their habits are prescribed by fate and their 

1 Gen. 1.14. 

2 Luke 21.25. 

3 Matt. 24.29. 



136 SAINT AMBROSE 

social behavior depends on the course of the stars? And 
what else does this lead to other than to deprive man of 
his humanity/ if no room is left for character, no outlet for 
education or for freedom of action? 

How many do we see snatched from amid their vices and 
sins to be converted to a better life? It was certainly not the 
circumstances of their birth which freed and called the 
Apostles from the company of sinners. Rather, the coming 
of Christ sanctified them and the hour of His Passion 
redeemed them from death. The condemned thief who was 
crucified with our Lord passed over into everlasting paradise, 
not because of a favorable nativity, but because of his con- 
fession of faith. 5 It was not the influence of his natal star, 
but the offense of having neglected the divine prophecy 
which cast Jonas into the sea. A whale which received him 
and after three days vomited him forth, 6 as a symbol of 
future mystery, and preserved him for the service of pro- 
phecy. Peter was rescued from impending death in prison by 
the angel of Christ, 7 not by the disposition of the stars. 
Blindness converted Paul to grace when he was struck by a 
viper. 8 When he was a victim of shipwreck he was saved, 
not by his natal star, but by the merits of his piety. 9 

What shall we say of those who by the prayers of the 
Apostles arose from the dead? 10 Was it their natal star or 
the grace of the Apostles that restored them? What need 
was there for them to restort to fasting and expose them- 
selves to danger, if they could obtain what they desired 
simply by virtue of their natal star? If they had put their 
trust in that, they would never, while awaiting the destinies 

4 Cf. Cicero, De finibus 5.35. 

5 Cf. Luke 23.42. 

6 Jonas 1.2-15; 2.11. 

7 Cf. Acts 12.7. 

8 Cf. Acts 9.8,18. 

9 Cf. Acts 28.3. 
10 Cf. Acts 9.40. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 137 

meted out to them by fate, have reached such perfection of 
grace. 

(14) What about the impossibility of all this? In fact, if 
we allow some force to their arguments for the sake of re- 
futing them and not for the sake of proof, they say that the 
time of our birth is of great importance. This time should 
be determined strictly within the limits of moments of the 
smallest extent, because, if no heed is paid to exactness, the 
greatest differences do ensue. Only the tiniest moment 
separates the nativity of the helpless from that of the power- 
ful, of the needy from the rich, of the innocent from the 
guilty. It often happens that at the same hour is born one 
who is destined to a long life and one who will die in early 
childhood, if other circumstances turn out to be dissimilar 
and if there is just one single point of difference. 

Let them reconstruct the following if they would. Suppose 
a woman is giving birth to a child. As a matter of course the 
midwife first observes the child. She looks for his cry as 
giving evidence of life and notes whether the child is a male 
or a female. How many moments will you allow for all 
these acts? Suppose that there is an astrologer near at hand. 
Can a man be present at a childbirth? While the midwife 
is giving information and while the Chaldean is listening 
and setting up the horoscope, the fates of the new-born 
child have already entered the space of the lot belonging to 
another person. It follows that while an investigation is being 
made regarding the fate of one person, the nativity of an- 
other is in the process of being established. 

Even suppose that what they maintain concerning fate 
and nativity is true, their conclusions connot, however, be 
true. A moment passes away: 'Time is flying beyond recall.' 11 
There is no doubt that time is made up of moments and of 
'a twinkling of an eye.' I am led to believe that assumption 

11 Virgil, Georgics 3.284. 



138 SAINT AMBROSE 

since we shall all arise, as the Apostle testifies, in a moment, 
in the twinkling of an eye: 'Behold I tell you a mystery: 
we shall all indeed rise, but we shall not all be changed in 
a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet and 
the dead shall rise incorruptible and we shall be changed.' 12 
Between the time when the child was born, taken up, and 
laid down again; between the time of his cry and the report 
of it, how many moments do you think have elapsed ! 

So far I have only touched the surface of this question. 
The upholders of this system divide that well-known circle 
of twelve signs, which has such vital importance for them, 
into twelve parts. Furthermore, as the sun travels over the 
twelfth part of that indescribable sphere it completes its 
course in this way in the period of a year they divide each 
one of these twelve parts into thirty smaller divisions which 
the Greeks call [lolpoci, and each of these smaller divisions 
they separate in turn into sixty other individual parts. How 
incomprehensible all this is! To think that the moment of a 
nativity is made up of a sixtieth of a sixtieth part and that 
such is exactly the motion and the aspect of each sign 
occurring at the actual moment of a nativity! Wherefore, 
since it is impossible to take such tenuous moments of time 
into account and since the slightest variation introduces an 
enormous error, the whole affair is based on mere phantasy. 
Its advocates are ignorant of their own destiny. How, then, 
can they know that of other men? They do not know what 
is in store for themselves. Can they announce the future of 
others? It is ridiculous to believe this, because if they were 
able to do so, they would inevitably foresee what the future 
held for themselves. 

(15) Now how stupid it is to think that if a person were 
to say that he was born under the sign of Aries and should 
suppose that, just because such an animal is pre-eminent in 

12 I Cor. 15.51. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION ! FOUR 139 

his own herd, he himself would turn out to be conspicuous 
for his wisdom ! Or that he would become quite rich for the 
reason that the Ram possesses by nature a raiment and 
every year puts on a new and costly garment. Wherefore 
this man would appear to be one who is destined to be no 
stranger to profit and gain. In a similar way they form their 
conclusions regarding the signs of the Bull and the Fishes, 
From the nature of ordinary animals they consider that the 
significance of the movements of the heavens and of the signs 
can be interpreted. And so our food and our sustenance have 
established for us the destines of our lives, that is to say, the 
Ram, the Bull, and the Fish imprint on us the norms of our 
character! Wherefore, then, do they summon from heaven 
the causes for material things and the basis for this life of 
ours, when at the same time they share the causes of their 
own motion with the celestial signs, arguing from the very 
qualities of ordinary human food? They maintain that a 
person born under the Ram is generous because the ram 
yields its wool without resistance. They prefer to ascribe 
that kind of virtue to the nature of an ordinary animal 
than to heaven, from which comes to us the gleam of sun- 
shine, and often, too, a downfall of rain. They assert that 
those who at their birth fall under the aspect of the Bull will 
be subject to toil and will endure servitude, 13 because that 
laborious animal willingly submits his neck to the yoke. 
They say, too, that those whom at their birth the Scorpion 
has encircled will turn out to be assassins 14 and that they will 
spit out the venom of wickedness a venom which is in 
essence poisonous. 

Why, therefore, do you pretend on the basis of the signi- 
ficance of celestial signs to give an authoritative standard for 
living? Why do you present certain nonsensical facts as proof 

13 Cf. Manilius, Astronomica 4.143. 

14 Cf. Petronius, Cena Trim. 39. 



140 SAINT AMBROSE 

of your assertion? If the movements of the heavens take their 
character from the moral qualities typical of such animals, 
then heaven itself seems to be subject to the influences of 
bestial natures, since from these natures it supposedly has 
received a substantial and vital force which it would com- 
municate to men. But if this is a far cry from what is the 
truth, so much the more ridiculous is it to think that these 
men, deprived as they are of any solid basis of fact, should 
have recourse to this assumption in order to give credence to 
their arguments. 

(16) Next let us consider the fact that they give the name 
of 'planet' to those signs which by their movements deter- 
mine the destinies of our lives. Either, as the name indicates, 
the planets wander for all time, or, if we follow their own 
statements, they move along in rapid motion. We are told 
that the planets in innumerable circular movements change 
their positions ten thousand times, or, if this seems incredible, 
show manifold aspects each day. Whatever may be the case, 
it cannot be accepted that such a wandering course and such 
a swift motion can be the means of establishing a fixed and 
immovable lot as a basis for our lives. Again, they maintain 
that the movements of the planets are not all equal. Some 
move around with more speed, others are slower in motion, 
so that they often at the same time gaze upon and hide from 
each other in the course of their transits. 

(17) They say that it makes considerable difference 
whether favorable or unfavorable and harmful signs look at 
the inception of a birth and the difference in birth lies in the 
fact that the aspect of a favorable sign confers very great 
benefits, while that of an unfavorable sign brings with it 
considerable harm. Such are the terms which they use of 
these very signs that they hold in veneration. I feel it neces- 
sary to make use of the vocabulary of those whose assertions 
I discuss, lest they proceed to remind me that their argu- 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 141 

ments have been ignored rather than utterly refuted. For 
example, that wandering and swift movement to which I 
have made reference escapes their comprehension in their 
attempt to establish to a nicety as an aspect of a favorable 
sign a point or moment of incomprehensible time. It fre- 
quently happens, in fact, that the threat of an unfavorable 
sign enters as a disturbing factor in the midst of their cal- 
culations. 

What wonder, then, if men are deceived when favorable 
signs are defamed? If the very nature of these signs is be- 
lieved to be unfavorable, then God, who is supreme, is ac- 
cused of being the creator of evil and responsible for wicked- 
ness. If, in fact, the signs are considered to have taken on 
by their own volition the power of harming the innocent and 
injuring those who are conscious of not having up to that 
time done any vile deed for which a punishment is assigned 
even before the fault is committed, what, I repeat, is so 
irrational, exceeding in that respect even the irrationality of 
of beasts, as to attribute the practice of deceit or of good 
will, not to the merits of men, but to the movements of the 
signs? He was in no way guilty, it is said, but an unfavorable 
sign looked upon him! He came in contact with the star of 
Saturn, On the other hand, by a very slight deviation, 
according to their calculations, bad omens are shunned and 
wrong-doing avoided, 

(18) This wisdom of theirs is similar to that encountered 
in a spider's web from which a gnat or fly cannot extricate 
itself once it has become entangled therein. 15 However, if an 
animal more robust by nature is seen to enter the web, right 
away it passes through, breaks the feeble strands, and des- 
troys the useless snares. Such are the nets of the Chaldeans, 
In these nets the weak are trapped, but those of a more 
robust nature find no obstacle there. You who have more 

15 See A, J. Festugiere. TAPA 85 (1954) 67. 



142 SAINT AMBROSE 

strength of character say to the astrologers when you see 
them: You weave spider's webs which cannot have any use 
or binding force when a person strikes against them, not in 
a moment of weakness like a gnat or a fly, but like a sparrow 
or a dove, rending their meshes in the swiftness of their 
winged flight, 

In fact, what sensible man would believe that signs, which 
frequently change from day to day and so many times return 
on themselves, can by their movements denote what are the 
indications of future power? If such were the case, what 
combinations indicating royal birth would be announced day 
after day ! As a consequence, kings would be born every day. 
Succession to the throne would not be transmitted to sons. 
Rather, at all time men of diverse social conditions would 
arise \\jho would lay claim to the rights of imperial power. 
What king, therefore, would care to think under these cir- 
cumstances of the birth of a son to succeed him, if the royal 
power is destined for someone else and if it is not within his 
own power to hand down to his own children the imperial 
succession? 

We read, of course, that 'Abia begot Asaph, Asaph begot 
Josaphat, Josophat begat Joram, Joram begat Ozias,' 16 and 
so up to the time of the captivity every succession took place 
through a line of kings of equal rank and honor. Do you 
think that, because they were kings, they had the power 
actually to govern their own movements movements which 
were committed to the control of the celestial signs? What 
human being can have dominion over these? 

(19) Again, if all our acts and deeds depend on the fates 
acquired at our birth and not on principles of morality, why 
are laws established and statutes promulgated by which 
punishment is meted out to the wicked and security bestowed 

16 Matt. 1.73. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FOUR 143 

on the innocent? Why is pardon not granted to the accused, 
since, to be sure, they fell into crime by reason, as is main- 
tained, of necessity and not by an act of their own will? 
Why does the farmer toil and not rather wait until it is time 
to convey into his storehouses the produce for which he has 
not labored, relying on the prerogatives of his birth? If he 
was destined by birth to be endowed with wealth without the 
expenditure of labor, he should undoubtedly wait until the 
earth brings forth fruit spontaneously without seed. If such 
were the case he should not sink his ploughshare into the 
earth or put his hands on the curved scythe or undergo the 
expense of harvesting the grapes. Rather, the wine would 
without effort flow plenteously into his stock of jars. With- 
out effort, too, he would let the wild olive berry exude its 
oil without the labor of grafting upon the trunk of the olive 
tree. In the same way a merchant who travels over the wide 
seas would not be in dread of the perils that threaten his 
own life, for it is within his power, because of a certain destiny 
allotted to him at birth, to come without labor into a 
wealth of treasure. 

But this is far from the accepted opinion. As a matter of 
fact, the farmer cleaves the earth 'with deep-driven plough 3 ; 
'stripped he ploughs, stripped he sows' ; stripped in the glow- 
ing 'heat he thrashes on the floor the parched ears.' 17 The 
merchant, impatient when the east winds are blowing, ploughs 
the sea often when the course is unsafe. Insolent and rash 
men such as these are condemned by the Prophet, who 
says: 18 'Be thou ashamed, O Sidon, the sea speaketh,' that 
is to say, if dangers do not move you, then shame can check 
and modesty confound you. 'Be thou ashamed, O Sidon, 5 
in which there is no place for virtue, no care for safety, no 
young men exercised in arms and ready to fight in defense of 

17 Virgil, Georgics 1.45,298,299. 

18 Isa. 23.4,3. 



144 SAINT AMBROSE 

their country. They are anxiously and entirely preoccupied 
with gain and the benefits derived from commerce, 'What 
the merchant sows, so does he reap.' 

What reward is there for a Christian, if in his activities 
and labors he follows the dictates of necessity, not those of 
his own free will? There, where destiny decides, personal 
initiative is held in no esteem. 



Chapter 5 

(20) We have spoken at length on this subject and do 
not desire to say any more, lest some people may form the 
opinion that what was taken up merely for the purpose of 
refutation has been presented for the purpose of publicizing 
it. As a matter of fact, how can these subjects which as 
children we held in ridicule now seriously enter our thoughts 
in our declining years? Therefore, let us now direct our pen 
to what remains of our reading of Scripture. 

(21) c Let there be lights to serve as signs and for the 
fixing of seasons, days and years,' 1 He said. We have already 
discussed the subject of 'signs.' 

What are seasons but successive changes, that is, winter, 
spring, summer, and autumn? During these seasons the 
passage of the sun is either swift or slow, scarcely touching 
us at one time with its rays; at another, burning us with its 
heat. And so we have winter when the sun lingers in the 
southern regions. When the sun is somewhat far away, the 
earth grows rigid with frost and is stiffened by cold. The 
earth is covered by all-pervading nocturnal shadows, so that 
the nights are much longer in extent than are the days. 
From this fact it happens that during the storms of winter a 
great amount of snow and rain is precipitated. When, 

1 Gen. 1.14. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FOUR 145 

rver, the sun, leaving the southern regions, returns to its 
position over the earth, the duration of day and night be- 
comes equal. Then, the more it prolongs its sojourn, the more 
it gradually tempers the air with its heat and with the 
clemency of its atmosphere, which fosters all things and 
forces them once more to reproduction. The result is that 
the earth germinates and the seeds released from the fur- 
rows come to life again, the trees sprout and in their effort 
to perpetuate their kind successively each year all species of 
terrestial and marine life propagate themselves. But when 
the sun rises toward the summer solstice in the north, the 
daytime is lengthened, thereby narrowing and restricting the 
period of night. And so, the more assiduously the sun links 
itself and mingles with our atmosphere, the more completely 
does it furnish heat to the air and at the same time dry up 
the moisture of the earth, thus causing the seeds to sprout 
forth and the offspring of the forests to ripen, as it were, into 
manhood. At the time whn the sun becomes warmer, the 
shadows at noon become shorter, inasmuch as the sun in this 
region shines from a position high above us. 

(22) Since the Synagogue says in the Canticle of Can- 
ticles: 'Show me, O thou whom my soul has loved, where 
thou feedest, where thou liest at midday, lest perchance I 
begin to wander after the flocks of thy companions, 52 that is: 
Announce to me, O Christ, whom has my soul loved. Why 
not rather whom [my soul] loves? The Synagogue loved, but 
the Church loves and never changes her affection for 
Christ. 'Where thou feedest, 3 we read, 'where thou liest at 
midday.' I desire to follow you into those places like a 
foster-child, to whom I once held fast as if in wedlock and 
I wish to search for your flock because I have lost mine. 
You feed at midday in the Church's pasture where Justice 

2 Cant. 1.6. 

3 Cf. Ps. 36.6. 



146 SAINT AMBROSE 

shines, where Judgment gleams like the noonday, 3 where no 
shadow is seen, where the days are longer, because the Sun 
of Justice dwells therein for a longer time just as in the 
months of summer. The day of the Lord is, therefore-, not 
brief. It is long because it has been written: 'Before the 
great day of the Lord doth come.' 4 Hence Jacob says: 'All 
the days of my life are brief and evil, 35 for a dubious light 
is evil. Brief days are, therefore, of dubious light and are not 
luminous. The contrary is true of the long days, as many 
people who live in warm countries realize from experience. 
Accordingly, the Synagogue in its brief and evil days was in 
very deep shade. Its type is often expressed in the person of 
Jacob or of his people. It did not behold the Sun of Justice 
shining from overhead, but, rather, since winter was at hand, 
shining from the direction of the south. But this is said to the 
Church: 'The winter is now past, is over and gone. The 
flowers have appeared in our land, the time of the harvest 
has come.' 6 Winter existed before the coming of Christ; 
after His coming, the flowers of the spring and summer's 
harvest appear. Since it faces the light shining from the south 
and from the region of the converted Gentiles, the Synagogue 
lies in shadow. The Gentiles 'who sat in darkness* the 
Gentiles, the people of the nations, a confused people 'have 
seen a great light; to them that sat in the region and shadow 
of death, a light has arisen.' 7 This is a great and divine light 
which is not darkened by any shadow of death. So it shines 
from above, because through the voice of Zachary it is 
written : 'Wherewith the Orient from on high has visited us, 
to shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of 
death. 58 There is, of course, a shadow of salvation, not of 

4 Joel 2.31. 

5 Gen. 47.9. 

6 Cant. 2.11. 

7 Matt. 4.16; Isa. 9.2. 

8 Luke 1.78. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 147 

death, as has been said: 'Thou shalt protect me under the 
shadow of thy wings' 9 'shadow, 3 in fact, because it is of the 
body; 'shadow,' too, because it is of the cross. It is the 
shadow of salvation, because in it was the remission of sins 
and the resurrection of the dead. 

( 23 ) We can state the problem succinctly in the following 
way: winter days are short while their shadows are long; 
summer days are long, whereas their shadows are short. In 
the middle of the day a shadow is shorter than it is at its 
beginning or end. This is the situation with us who live in 
the west. However, there are people living in the southern 
regions who for two days in the year are without shadows, 
since the sun's rays strike from a position directly overhead, 
thus illuminating everything on all sides. Hence, these are 
called in Greek 'Ascii.' 10 Many also report the fact that in 
that region the sun is so perpendicularly situated above that 
water can be seen gleaming deep down through the narrow 
openings of a well. In the south there is report of a people 
who are called 'Amphiscii' 11 because they cast a shadow on 
each side. 

The person, in fact, who travels in the direction of the 
sun casts his shadow behind him. This happens when he 
advances toward the east in the morning hours or toward 
the south at midday or toward the west at sunset. From three 
directions, therefore, may the sun strike a person; from the 
east, the south, and the west. Our shadows are behind us 
in the morning and in the evening, and at noon the situation 
is similar. Moreover, the sun does not reach us from the 
north. For that reason, if you face northward in the morning 
or in the evening or at midday you cast no shadow behind 
you. Only those people who live in the southern regions of 
this world which we inhabit are able, it appears, to cast their 

9 PS. 16.8. 

10 Men without a shadow. 

11 Men with double shadows. 



148 SAINT AMBROSE 

shadows in a southerly direction. This is said to happen in 
the height of summer when the sun is advancing toward the 
north. 

For us there is the relief of autumn. At its coming the 
excessive heat of summer is broken. Autumn, relaxing its 
warmth and moderating its temperature to what is equable, 
hands us over without malice or harm to the breezes of 
winter. 

(24) 'Let there be [lights] for the fixing of days/ 12 says the 
Scripture not that they may make the days, but that they 
may have a principal part in their making, so that the sun 
may illuminate the dawn with more generous gifts and with 
its light can designate the course of the entire day. In such 
a sense some interpret the words of the Prophet: 'The sun 
to rule the day, the moon and the stars to rule the night,' 13 
as they cast their lights around. 

The sun and the moon, too, were designed *to fix the 
years. 3 The moon in twelve times thirty days, according to 
the Hebrews, completes the year with the addition of a few 
days, and according to the Romans with an intercalary day 
added every fourth year. The solstitial year is that portion of 
time which corresponds to the completion of a period in 
which the sun makes a circuit through all the signs and then 
returns to the point of its departure. 14 



Chapter 6 

( 25 ) God made, therefore, these two great luminaries. We 
may assume that by their own right they are great and not 
merely by comparison with other objects such as the broad 

12 Gen. 1.14. 

13 Ps. 135.8,9. 

14 Cf. Isidore, Etymol 5.36.3. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 149 

heavens and the mighty sea. We must admit the mightiness 
of that sun which fills with its heat the entire earth as the 
moon, too, fills not only the earth with its light, but also this 
atmosphere of ours, the sea, and the firmament. In what- 
every part of the heavens these lights may be, they illuminate 
everything and are observed equally by all So much is this 
true that people of every race believe that these luminaries 
delight in lingering in their respective native countries. They 
believe that they are present there only, furnishing light to 
them alone, whereas these lights shine on all without distinc- 
tion. Everyone is convinced, moreover, that he is nearer these 
luminaries than any other individual. 

As a proof of its great size one may note that the orb of the 
moon seems to all men to be of the same dimensions. Although 
at times its light may increase or diminish, its appearance 
on any one night is the same for me as it is for all men. If it 
were to appear smaller to distant people and if to people 
living nearer it would seem to shine more brilliantly, we 
would then have clear indications of the narrow compass of 
its range and its extent. The reason is that all objects are 
considered by us to be smaller when we are some distance 
away from them, while other objects are regarded as larger 
if seen closer at hand. The size of an object increases in 
proportion as the beholder comes nearer. The sun's rays 
are neither nearer to any one individual nor more remote. 
In like manner, the sphere of the moon has for all men the 
same size. The sun when it rises appears at the same instant 
alike to the people of India and of Britain. When it sets, 
the sun does not appear to be smaller to the inhabitants of 
the east than it does to those of the west. When the sun 
rises it does not seem to the people of the west to be smaller 
than it does to the people of the east. As Scripture says: 'As 
far as the east is from the west.' 1 These points are distant 



1 Ps. 102.12. 



150 SAINT AMBROSE 

one from the other but that is not true in regard to the sun. 
It does not lie nearer any other object nor more remote 
from it. 

(26) Do not be disturbed by the fact that the sun on 
rising seems to be about a cubit in extent. Rather, consider 
that between the sun and the earth there lies a space which 
our vision, because of its weakness, cannot penetrate with- 
out a loss of effectiveness. Our vision is clouded. Are we to 
conclude that the sun or moon is clouded, also? Our vision 
is limited. Does that make more limited the things that we 
see? The apparent size of an object is diminished, not the 
real. We ought not to ascribe to the luminaries a weakness 
which is due merely to our senses. 

Our sight deceives us. Therefore, do not put trust in its 
testimony. The heavenly bodies present the appearance of 
smallness, but their form Is actually not so. If from the top 
of a mountain you wish to view a plain before your eyes with 
cattle feeding therein, will they not take on the appearance 
of ants? 2 If you should look far out to sea from some point 
on shore, will not the largest ships with their sails flashing 
amid the blue of the sea appear to you in the distance like 
doves in flight? More than that, even the islands with their 
extensive areas which deck the sea seem circumscribed in a 
narrow space, taking on a smooth appearance instead of a 
rough one, a look of density instead of its contrary! Take 
account, therefore, of the weakness of your eyesight and like 
a just judge rely on yourself, putting trust as the same time 
in those things which we affirm to be true. 3 

(27) Do you want to estimate the huge size of the sun 
with your bodily eyes as well as with the eyes of your mind? 
Consider the extent in which the spheres of the stars seem 
to cover and illuminate with lights innumerable the firma- 

2 CL Lucretius 2.334,335. 

3 Ibid. 4.353-363. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FOUR 151 

ment of the heavens. Yet, for all that, they do not succeed 
in dispersing the clouds of the sky and the darkness of night- 
time. 4 As soon as the sunrise has sent forth its standards, 
all the glowing stars vanish beneath the flashing rays of one 
luminary, the surroundings are unveiled, and the sky is 
flooded with a purple flush of light. The dawn at its in- 
ception is still breathing. In a flash the splendor of the sun's 
fiery rays emerge and the breeze's sweet breath is a fore- 
runner of the rising sun. Tell me, if you please, how could 
the sun illuminate the great orb of the earth unless it, too, 
was mighty? 

(28) What shall I say of the Creator's great moderation 
and control? He conferred such measure on the sun's opera- 
tion that its fiery flame to all appearances has not by its 
pervading heat burned up the veins of the earth and the 
entire structure of matter? 5 Again, in such an extensive 
world the sun has not by becoming cool ceased from the act 
of infusing the 'seed of heat' 6 into the earth. Rather, thrusting 
aside infecundity and want, it has effectively bestowed on 
the earth the blessing of warmth with its accompanying 
fertility. 

Chapter 7 

(29) What we have stated in regard to her consort and 
brother applies in similar fashion to the moon, since the 
latter assumes the same offices as her brother, namely that of 
illuminating the darkness, cherishing the seeds, and in- 
creasing the produce of the soil. She has functions, also, 
which are different from her brother's. The moisture which 
throughout the day the heat has absorbed from the earth is 

4 Cf. Horace, Odes 1.7.15. 

5 Cf, Lucretius 2.61 (species rerum) . 

6 Lucretius 1.902; 6.200,201. 



152 SAINT AMBROSE 

replaced in the short space of night in the form of dew/ 
of which the moon is said to be a generous dispenser. Hence, 
when the night is clear and the moon shines the whole night 
long, a larger amount of dew is then said to fall. Many 
reclining in the open air have experienced the phenomenon 
of collecting more dew on their heads, the longer they rested 
in the moonlight. Wherefore, in the Canticles, Christ speaks 
to the Church: Tor my head is full of dew and my locks 
of the drops of the night, 53 

Then, again, the moon goes through a process of waxing 
and waning. It becomes smaller when as a new moon it 
rises, at which point it gradually approaches a fuller form. 
In this we can see a great mystery. The elements are affected 
by the waning of the moon. After a period of exhaustion, 
strength is regained at the time of the moon's waxing. We 
may note this process in two instances: in the brains of 
living things and in the amount of water in shellfish. In fact, 
oysters and many other kinds of shellfish are said to be more 
developed at the time when the moon is becoming fuller. 
The same phenomenon is related by those who have made 
special investigation into the internal structure of trees. 
We see, therefore, that the waxing and waning of the moon 
is not the result of weakness, but of plan and purpose. If it 
were not that the Creator had thought fit to bestow unusual 
excellence and beauty on such significant changes, these 
changes would not have been allotted to matter. 

(30) Some learned men, including some who are Christians, 
have claimed that the air usually changes at the rising of 
the moon. Yet, if these lunar changes should result in some 
unusual upheaval, then clouds would conceal the sky and 
rain would fall at every rising of the moon. So, when 
there was talk the previous day of a much desired rainfall, 

1 Cf. Virgil, Georgics, 2.202. 

2 Cant. 5.2. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 153 

some person remarked, 'See, the new moon will bring it/ 
Although we were all eager for rain, I had no desire to 
believe that such assertions are true. Hence, I was delighted 
when no rain fell, until it was granted as a consequence 
of the Church's prayers. Wherefore, it was made manifest 
that one should not expect rain to follow the new moon, 
but that is should be granted by a provident and beneficent 
Creator. 

In fact, although channels of water during other phases 
of the moon rise and afterwards sink to their former level 
or even rush along violently without any external force, 
these same bodies of water remain calm at the time of the 
new moon before its light is observable. 3 When in the course 
of time the moon comes into view, then the waters return 
to their accustomed ebb and flow. Again, during those days 
when the new moon is not in evidence the ebb tide, which 
is reputed to exist in the ocean, is said to follow its usual 
course. On the occasion of the moon's rise, according to 
report, clear indications of change make their appearance. 
To be more precise, the western sea, 4 towards which the 
ebb tide directs itself, rises and falls with greater force, as 
if it were driven backward and forward by the same lunar 
exhalations, until it ultimately falls back into its normal 
and accustomed channel. 



Chapter 8 

(31) Hence, if you wonder at the fact that the moon can 
suffer a loss of light while it has in itself the power to pro- 
duce change, consider that we are here in the presence of a 

3 Cf. Virgil, Eclogues 2.26. 

4 The Atlantic Ocean; see S. Giet, Basile de C&aree (Paris 1949) 382 
nn. 2-4. 



154 SAINT AMBROSE 

great mystery. From this let men deduce the lesson that 
nothing can exist in the universe, be it human or any other 
created thing, which shall not at some time pass away. 1 Even 
the moon, to which the Lord has granted - the important 
office of illuminating the whole world, goes through the 
process of waxing and waning. All things, which spring from 
nothing, reach their perfection and again diminish in perfec- 
tion, being subject to decline. Hence we are told: 'Heaven 
and earth shall pass away.' 2 Why, then, do we not moderate 
our emotions and face adversities with courage? For He who 
has created all things from nothing has the power to bear 
you aloft to the summit of perfection. In a similar manner, 
we should control our feelings of joy in prosperity and not 
take pride in our positions of wealth and power. Likewise, 
we should not boast of our physical strength or beauty which 
is liable both to corruption and to constant change. Rather, 
we should strive for that beauty of soul which endures into 
future time. 

If you are afflicted with sadness at the sight of the waning 
of the moon 'which repairs its losses' and renews itself, 3 all 
the more ought you to be saddened if your soul, which has 
been filled with the fruit of virtue, should frequently after- 
ward change its intent and purpose by an attitude of incon- 
stancy and heedlessness. This is the height of stupidity and 
ignorance, for, as Scripture says: 'A fool is changed as the 
moon. 54 Hence, a wise man does not change with the moon: 
c He shall continue with the sun, 35 

Wherefore the moon does not partake of folly, because 
the moon does not change like the fool, but the fool like the 
moon. The seed of the just remains 'as the moon, perfect for 

1 Cf. Horace, Odes 2.11.10-12. 

2 Matt. 24.35. 

3 Horace, Odes 4.7.13. 

4 Eccli. 27.12. 

5 Ps. 71.5. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FOUR 155 

ever and a faithful witness in heaven.' 6 To perform one's 
function is one thing; to have no> fixed beliefs and to be 
carried away by unstable whims and emotions presents a 
situation that is quite different. The moon toils for you 7 and 
by reason of the will of God is made subject: 'For creation 
is made subject to vanity, not by its own will but by reason of 
him who made it subject in hope.' 8 It is you who undergoes 
changes of your own volition, not the moon. The moon 
'groans and travails in pain' 9 in its changes. You, without 
understanding, often find joy in this. The moon frequently 
awaits your release from sin, that it may be realeased from 
the servitude in which all creation shares. But you place 
obstacles to your release from sin and to the moon's freedom. 
The fact that you yourself still await that conversion which 
fails to come, 10 whereas the moon suffers change, is, then, 
the result, not of the moon's folly, but of your's. 

(32) Your opinion of the moon should be based, not on 
the observation of your eyes, but on the insight of your mind. 
The moon diminishes in size so as to make an addition to the 
sum of physical phenomenon. This, therefore, is a great 
mystery. He who has allotted His gifts to all things has 
allotted this to the moon. He has emptied it so as to replenish 
it. He has even 'emptied Himself' 11 that He might replenish 
all, for He emptied Himself that He might come down for 
us. He came down for us that He might ascend for all. It is 
written, in fact: 'He who ascended above the heavens that 
he might fill all things.' 12 Hence, one of the Apostles says: 
Tor of his fullness we have all received.' 13 The moon, there- 

6 Ps. 88.38. 

7 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 2.478. 

8 Rom. 8.20. 

9 Rom. 8.22. 

10 Cf. Rom. 8.19. 

11 Phil. 2.7. 

12 Eph. 4.12. 

13 John 1.16. 



156 SAINT AMBROSE 

fore, has made known the mysteries of Christ. It is no slight 
thing in which He has placed His sign. No slight thing is that 
which contains the type of His beloved Church, as the 
Prophet points out when he says: 'In his days shall justice 
spring up and abundance of peace till the moon be taken 
away/ 14 And .in the Canticles the Lord says of His spouse: 
'Who is she that looks forth as the morning rising, fair as the 
moon, excellent as the sun?' 15 

Deservedly is the moon compared to the Church, who has 
shone over the entire world and says as she illuminates the 
darkness of this world: 'The night is far advanced, the day 
is at hand. 316 Fittingly does she say: 'She that looks forth, 3 
as if looking from a higher position on one's own, in accord- 
ance with the statement: 'The Lord hath looked down from 
heaven upon the children of men. 317 Looking down, then, 
the Church has, like the moon, her frequent risings and 
settings. She has grown, however, by her settings and has by 
their means merited expansion at a time when she is under- 
going diminution through persecution and while she is being 
crowned by the martyrdom of her faithful. This is the real 
moon which from the perpetual light of her own brother 
has acquired the light of immortality and grace. Not from 
her own light does the Church gleam, but from the light of 
Christ. From the Sun of Justice has her brilliance been ob- 
tained, so that it is said : Tt is now no longer I that live, but 
Christ lives in me,' 18 

Happy, in truth, is that which merited such an honor! 
Wherefore I would not call you happy by reason of your 
renewals, but by the fact that you are a type of the Church, 

14 PS. 71.7. 

15 Cant. 6.9. 

16 Rom. 13.12. 

17 Ps. 13.2. 

18 Gal. 2,20. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FOUR 157 

In the former case you are but a servant; in the latter, our 
beloved ! 

(33) How ridiculous is the current belief that you can be 
brought to earth by magical charms! These are old wives' 
tales, the gossip of the common crowd. Who would believe 
that a work of God assigned to such important service could 
be affected by the superstitions of the Chaldeans? He who 
was brought down not by magical charms but by his own 
will, who 'disguises himself as an angel of light,' 19 may very 
well have fallen from heaven. To be sure, there are those 
who believe that the Church, too, can be moved from her 
place and position. There are many men who provoke the 
Church, but the charms of the magician can not harm her. 
Magical chants are of no avail there where the canticles of 
Christ are chanted daily. Her own chanter is Jesus, our Lord, 
through whom magical charms and serpents' poison were 
made void. She is like a serpent which placed on high de- 
voured the snakes, 20 and, although a deadly Egyptian chant 
be murmured, 21 its force is lost at the utterance of the name 
of Christ. So, too, Paul blinded Elymas, 22 thus depriving 
him of his eyesight and of his futile magic powers at one and 
the same time. In like manner, Peter cast down to the 
ground Simon, who by the evil power of his charms sought 
to soar aloft by magic to the heights of heaven. 



Chapter 9 

(34)1 feel sure that the fourth day has come to a close in 
a wonderful way. How does it happen, then, that many 

19 2 Cor. 11.14. 

20 Cf. Num. 21.8; John 3.14. 

21 Cf, Exod. 7.11. 

22 Cf. Acts 13.11. 



158 SAINT AMBROSE 

people generally avoid the fourth day and think that it is use- 
less to begin anything in association with a number with 
which the entire world blazoned forth in a new light? Do 
they believe that the sun came into being under inauspicious 
circumstances? And how is it possible for a person to predict 
good fortune for another, if he himself is unable to choose 
for himself the day of his own birth? How can they make 
known the horoscope of a person without knowing anything 
of his birth? What do we say of the moon which rises on the 
fourth day? 1 Does not the fourteenth day indicate for us the 
day of salvation? 2 Is the date on which is celebrated the 
mystery of the Redemption an occasion for our displeasure? 
Hence, the demons are responsible for attempts to avoid the 
number four, for in it their wickedness was destroyed. And so 
the Gentiles maintain that nothing should be initiated with 
it, because they know that then for the first time their schemes 
began to be of no avail. Moreover, the Gentile race had 
already come into the fold of the Church. 

If the moon is at its fourth rising be 'clear and with undim- 
med horns, 53 it is thought that this is an indication that the re- 
maining days of the month will be serene up to the very end. 
To think that people are unwilling to start anything on those 
days which are destined to be followed by calm weather! 

But we must in the midst of this discourse of ours be on 
our guard lest the fourth day should suddenly come to an 
end. 'Longer shadows are falling from the mountain-heights/ 4 
as the light becomes dim and the shades of evening grow 
more dense. 

1 Cf, Virgil, Georgics 1.432. 

2 The Jewish Christians observed the feast of the Resurrection on the 
14th day of the month Nisan. 

3 Virgil, Georgics 1.433435. 

4 Virgil, Eclogues 1.84. 




BOOK FIVE: THE FIFTH DAY 



THE SEVENTH HOMILY 



Chapter 1 

| HE ENTIRE EARTH was now arrayed in its verdant garb 
of diverse plants. The sun, too, and the moon, those 
twin luminaries, and the stars in their splendor shone 
forth in the heavens. A third element still remained, in 
which the blessing of life was to be bestowed by the gift of 
God. All things on earth are being sustained and nourished 
by the air above. 1 The earth opening up the seeds gives life 
to everything. Then under the command of God's word, it 
blossomed forth at the gift of creative life. Water alone 
seemed not yet to have been affected by the generosity of 
God's 5 gift. There still was something which waited for the 
hands of the Creator. With the water He saved a certain 
fitting and special endowment which He would set aside for 
the functions appropriate to it. The earth was the first 
element on which the boon of life was conferred, but this 
life has no animating soul. The water, in its turn, was bidden 
to produce that which would bestow the force and dignity of 

1 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 6.726. 

159 



1 60 SAINT AMBROSE 

something that is alive something that is provided with a 
sense of self-preservation and with the instinct of shrinking 
from death. 

( 2 ) And God also said : 'Let the waters abound with life 
and above the earth let winged creatures fly below the 
firmament of the heavens.' 2 

At this command the waters immediately poured forth 
their offspring. The rivers were in labor. The lakes produced 
their quota of life. The sea itself began to bear all manner 
of reptiles and to send forth according to its kind whatever 
was there created. The tiny creeks and the muddy marshes 
were not without exercising the power of creation granted 
to them. Fish leaped from the rivers. Dolphins frolicked in 
the waves. Shell-fish clung to the rocks. Oysters adhered to 
the depths and the sea-urchins waxed strong. 

Alas, enticement, the mother of our life of ease, existed 
before the creation of man ! Before man there existed things 
to delight us ! The temptation of man antedated his creation. 
But this was not nature's fault. Nature gave us nourishment 
and did not prescribe vice. These things were given for 
common use. Therefore, you were not to claim anything as 
your own personal property. For you did the earth give 
generously of her fruits. For you did the waters generate the 
scari and the acipenseres and all their produce. 3 Not satisfied 
with these, you have tasted food that is forbidden to you. 
Everything is heaped up before your envious eyes, so that 
the perversity of your greed may become all the more 
grievous. 

(3) But we are unable to record the multiplicity of the 
names of all those species which by divine command were 
brought to life in a moment of time. At the same instant 

2 Gen. 1.20. 

3 A species of fish regarded as a delicacy by the Romans. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 161 

substantial form and the principle of life were brought into 
existence; associated was a sort of vital vigor and power. 
The earth was replete with plants. The sea was filled with 
living things. In the one, vegetative life blossomed forth; in 
the other, animal life prevailed. In the earth, too, water 
claimed its part. The earth is laved by the fish of the sea. 
From it comes their prey. Gnats buzz and frogs croak even 
around the borders of the marshes that gave them birth. 
They, too, have heard the command of the Lord: 'Let the 
waters abound with life.' 

(4) We know that the serpent species is given the name 
of 'creeper' from the fact that it is creeps over the earth. 
With more assurance we can say that every creature that 
swims presents the natural appearance of a creature that 
creeps. For, when these animals sink into deep water, they 
seem to cleave through it. Yet, when they swim, they seem 
to creep with their whole body as they propel it over the 
surface of the water. Hence David has also said: This great 
sea which stretcheth wide its arms; there are creeping things 
without number. 34 There are a great many such animals 
provided with feet for walking. They are amphibians, living 
either in the water or on land; for example, seals, crocodiles 
and water-horses. The latter are.called hippopotamuses from 
the fact that they are generated in a river, in this case, the 
Nile. These animals do not walk, however, when they are in 
deep water. Rather, by using their feet they are able by 
swimming to propel themselves forward; not, however, as 
one would perform the act of walking. The animal makes 
progress as one would with the use of an oar, just as a boat 
glides along with the help of oars and 'ploughs the waters 
with its keel' 5 

4 PS. 103,25. 

5 Virgil, Aeneid 5.142. 



162 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 2 

(5) 'Let the waters abound with life, 3 said the Lord a 
brief statement, but a significant one and one that is widely 
effective in endowing with their nature the smallest and the 
largest animals without distinction. The whale, as well as the 
frog, came into existence at the same time by the same 
creative power. Without effort does God produce the great- 
est things. He is not averse to creating the least. 1 Nature is 
not in pain when she gives birth to dolphins, just as she is 
not in pain when she produces tiny animals like snails and 
purple-fish. 

Take note of the fact that there are far more animals in 
the sea than on land. Count, if you can, all the species of 
fish from the smallest to the greatest, for example, the cuttle- 
fish, the polypus, the oyster, the sea and river crab, and even 
the different types among these. What shall I say of the 
different species of serpent, of the dragon, the murena, and 
the eel? not to mention the scorpions, the frogs, the tortoise, 
the mustela, also, and the sea-dog, the sea-calf, the monstrous 
shark, 2 the dolphin, the seal, and the sea-lion. What need is 
there to add to our list the sea-ousel, the sea-thrush, and the 
sea-peacock, whose colors we see in the feathers of birds as, 
for example, the black ousel and the peacock with its varied 
colored back and neck; also in the feathers of the thrush 
with its spotted breast and in the feathers of the rest of the 
birds whose names and species belong to this earth of ours? 
These, as a matter of fact, came into existence in the seas 
and in the multitudinous rivers, since the waters at the divine 
command were the first to produce 'creeping creatures hav- 
ing life.' 

(6) Add to this the beneficence of God whereby what we 

1 Cf. Cicero, De natura deorum 3,86,93, 

2 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 5.822. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 163 

cherish in the water is an object of fear on land. This is true, 
because what is harmful on land is in water without harm 
even the water-snakes are bereft of poison. The lion is a 
terrifying animal on land; he is gentle in the water. The 
murena, which is said to be somewhat harmful, is a choice 
table food. The frog is repellent when in the marshes, is 
pleasing when in water, and excels all in its deliciousness as 
food. If you desire to know more on this subject, make en- 
quiry of fishermen in different localities, for no one person 
can possibly know all there is to know. 

Be on your guard, of course, against dogs; even those in 
the sea. These the Apostle instructs us to beware of and to 
avoid even in the Church: 'Beware of the dogs, beware of 
the evil- workers.' 3 The mustela (marten), which on land is 
malodorous, is sweet-smelling in the sea. As a land animal it 
is capable of defending itself by its odor; as a marine animal, 
it affords no less pleasure when caught than when it is free. 

I shall not refrain from addressing by name the thymallus/ 
endowed with the name of a flower. Wherever you are 
found, whether in the waters of the Ticino or of the beautiful 
Adige, a flower you are. A more forceful testimony to the 
fact that you give forth a sweet odor lies in the facetious 
remark: You smell like a fish or a flower. According to 
usage, therefore, the odor of the fish is identical with that of 
the flower. What is more pleasing than your appearance, 
more delightful than your sweetness, and more fragrant than 
your odor? You emit from your body an odor which may 
well be compared to that of honey. 5 

What shall I say of the tender qualities of the ravens and 
wolves of the sea? These wolves do not inspire fear in lambs. 
Such is the charm of water that its sea-lions flee from the 

3 Phil. 3.2. 

4 Probably a species of salmon. 

5 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 4.169. 



164 SAINT AMBROSE 

sea-calves, as follows from the prophetic utterance on the 
sanctity of the Church: Then the wolf and the lamb shall 
feed together, the lion and the ox shall eat straw/ 6 This is 
not to be wondered at, since even in the Church the effect 
of water [of baptism] is such that the guilt of the wicked, 
once it is washed away, has become assimilated to innocence. 
Why should I make mention here, also, of the purple of 
kings which adorn their banquet halls and give color to their 
garments? What is venerated in kings is a gift of water; 7 
of water, too, is the brilliance of their array. Add to this 
fact that the sea-pig was esteemed by the Jews, because 
there is nothing impure which water does not make clean. 
For this reason, that which is not in the same status as the 
land animal they cannot consider to be impure. 



Chapter 3 

(7) Innumerable are the ways, innumerable, too, are the 
species of fish. Various kinds 1 of larger fish, such as trout, 
produce eggs. They entrust these seeds to the fostering care 
of the waters. The water, therefore, like a fond mother of 
living things, gives them breath and life and carries out the 
function, as if it were a perpetual one, provided by the first 
primal law. Others, such as the female of the mustela, pro- 
duce from their bodies living offspring. This is true of the 
sea-dogs and the monstrous whales, the dolphins, seals, and 
others of that species. If, perchance, when they have brought 
forth their offspring, they have a presentiment of some 
situation of extreme danger, in order to protect their youth- 
ful progeny and to allay their panic, they have recourse to 

6 Isa. 65.25. 

7 Of. Virgil, Aeneid 1.637-642. 



1 Cf. Isidore, Etymol 12.6.6; A. C. Andrews, TAPA 86 (1955) 314 n. 43. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 165 

the following manifestation of maternal affection. Opening 
their mouths, they cause their offspring to attach them- 
selves to their teeth, which in this case cause no harm. It is 
related, also, that they receive and hide their offspring within 
their bodies, even within the womb that bore them. 

What human emotion can compare with this devotion on 
the part of fish for their progeny? We are satisfied to offer a 
kiss. It is not sufficient for them to open their wombs to 
receive their young. They invite them back without in- 
flicting harm and reanimate them by the fostering heat of 
their bodies. They restore them by their breath, so that they 
live as two in one body. This they do until conditions are 
safe for their young or while by the interposition of their 
bodies they are able to defend their own brood from the 
perils which lie in wait for them. Who on beholding this 
devotion would not, even though he were able to attain 
it, consider himself to be their inferior by far? Who would 
not in his wonder be astonished that nature should retain 
among fishes that quality which men have lost? Many men 
have slain their long-wanted sons because of suspicion and 
hate of a step-mother. Others, as we read, 2 have eaten the 
flesh of their own children. A mother became the tomb of 
her own dear ones, whereas the womb of the parent fish 
serves as a sort of rampart to protect the innocent fosterlings 
sheltered within her womb. 3 

(8) Different species of fish, therefore, follow diverse 
customs. Some produce eggs; others give birth to offspring 
alive and already formed. Those which produce eggs do not, 
as birds do, build a nest. They do not undergo the fatigue 
resulting from an extended period of brooding; they do not 
at great discomfort to themselves give nourishment to their 
young. The egg falls and is received in the womb of mother 

2 Ct Deut. 28.53; 4 Kings 6.28. 

3 Cf. Cicero, De officiis 1.97. 



1 66 SAINT AMBROSE 

nature, who welcomes it as a fond nurse would, quickly 
forming it into a living being by the exercise of fostering 
care. No sooner is the egg given life by the touch of the 
parent that it falls and fish issues forth. 

(9) And then what pure and untarnished generations 
follow without intermingling one after another, so that a 
thymallus produces a thymallus; a sea-wolf, a sea-wolf. The 
sea-scorpion, too, preserves unstained its marriage bed. Thus 
it shares in the chastity of its species, but not in its poisonous 
qualities, for the sea-scorpion does not sting. On the contrary, 
it has curative qualities. 

Fish, therefore, know nothing of union with alien species. 
They do not have unnatural betrothals such as are designedly 
brought about between animals of two different species as, 
for instance, the donkey and the mare, or again the female 
donkey and the horse, both being examples of unnatural 
union. Certainly there are cases in which nature suffers more 
in the nature of defilment rather than that of injury to the 
individual. Man as an abettor of hybrid barrenness is respon- 
sible for this. He considers a mongrel animal more valuable 
than one of a genuine species. You mix together alien species 
and you mingle diverse seeds. You go to the extent of 
frequently forcing animals to -a forbidden copulation all this 
in the nai^ie of -'efficiency.' And because you cannot cause 
in man a lack of fecundity by a mifcglirig of species, you 
take from man that with which he was bom you take what 
is virile from man and deny him the use of his sexual organs. 
In this way you make a man a eunuch, so effecting by your 
audacity what is denied to man by nature. 

(10) How good a mother water can be we can learn from 
the considerations that I here propose. Man has taught that 
parents should repudiate their sons;- he has taught sepafa-* 
tions, hates, and injuries. For your benefit learn of the close 
ties between parents and children. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 167 

Fish cannot live without water. They cannot endure 
separation from the association with their parents and from 
the nourishment provided for them. Nature has so ordained 
it that they die immediately when they are separated from 
their element. They do not live, as other animals do, by 
breathing this air of ours. Nature has not furnished them 
with the means of respiration; otherwise, they would not be 
able to keep living under water without breathing in air. 
Our air corresponds to their water. Just as air provides for 
us the means of living, water for them serves a similar func- 
tion. Life leaves us the instant our organs for breathing are 
cut off, because we cannot even for a brief moment be de- 
prived of the breath of life. When deprived of their sus- 
tenance in water, fish, too, cease to live. 

(11) The reasons for this are clear. We have lungs which 
receive the air as it enters through the larger passages of the 
thorax. Being permeated with numerous pores, the lungs are 
able by the infusion of air to cooi the internal heat. When 
the thorax receives nutriment, it separates what is super- 
fluous from the health-giving juices and the blood; so, too, 
the lung is accessible in order that the intake of air may all 
the more readily reach it. Fish are furnished with gills which 
sometmes fold up and close, at other times expand and open 
up. In the process of closing and opening, the function of 
respiration is carried out as water is received and transmitted 
within. 

Fish, therefore, have their own peculiar nature, which is 
not shared with other animals. They have distinctive habits 
and find their material for sustaining life in a very special 
and alien substance. Wherefore they do not receive nourish- 
ment from man and do not find, as land animals do, any 
pleasure and delight from the touch of man's hand, not 
even if they are kept alive in private fish-ponds. 



168 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 5 

(12) What shall I say about the closely packed arrange- 
ment of the teeth of fish? They do not have what sheep and 
oxen possess, partial denture on one side of their gums. 
Rather, they are armed with teeth on both sides, because, if 
they delay in the act of swallowing their food in water, their 
prey could easily be washed and carried away by the water's 
action. For that reason their teeth are closely-packed and 
sharp so as to be able to bite and dispatch quickly their 
food and swallow it easily without delay. Hence, they do not 
chew the cud, as the scarus is said to do, if we are to believe 
those who either by chance or design have come to know 
such matters. 

(13) To be sure, not even these have been able to escape 
experiencing acts of violence imposed on them by their 
fellows. The weaker everywhere are subject to the greed of 
the more powerful The weaker one is, the more is he an 
object of prey. Many, it is true, feed on herbs and tiny worms, 
but there are those, also, who devour each other and feed on 
their own flesh. The lesser among them is the food of the 
greater and the greater in his turn is attacked by one 
stronger than he. The one who uses another as his prey 
becomes the food of still another. So it comes to pass that he 
who has devoured one fish is devoured in turn by another. 
They both meet in the same belly: the devourer and the 
devoured. The result is that together in the same entrails 
there is fellowship of victor and avenger, 1 

In their case, perhaps, this violent way of living has grown 
from inner compulsion, whereas with us it springs from 
avarice, not from nature. Again, fish are given to man for 

1 For the vogue of this subject, see W. Parsons, Traditio 3 (1945) 382. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 169 

his use. They also constitute for us a pattern of the vices to 
be observed in our society. They serve, too, as an example to 
be avoided, lest the attack of the stronger on the weaker may 
present an occasion for the former to be exposed in turn to 
the violence of one who is still more powerful than he. In 
this way the person who does injury to another prepares for 
himself a snare for his own ultimate destruction. 

(14) Those of you who attack another with deadly intent 
and those of you who drown the weak and pursue your 
victim even into the depths follow the example of this sort 
of fish. Be on your guard, while you are in pursuit of him, 
against an attack of a still stronger foe. The person who 
escapes your trap may well lead you into another. While he 
is in dread of the calamity in store for himself, your mis- 
fortune may first come before his eyes. 

What is the difference between a rich man driven by his 
wicked lusts to absorb the patrimony of the weak and the 
fish called silurus whose belly is filled with the blood and 
flesh of smaller fish? The rich man died' 2 and his spoils 
were of no use to him. Why, even the infamy of his deeds 
of depredation have made his name a by-word. The silurus 
is taken and the futility of his predatory acts is revealed. 
How many are the fish found here who have themselves 
devoured others ! And you, rich man, have in your conscience 
the fate of one who preyed on another, who had himself 
come into possession of a poor man's patrimony. In ruining 
him you added two patrimonies to your possessions, yet you 
are not satisfied. You say that you are taking vengeance on 
others when you are performing the same deed for which 
you are seeking vengeance. Thus, you are more unjust than 
the unjust, more iniquitous than the iniquitous, more avar- 

2 Luke 16.22. 



170 SAINT AMBROSE 

icious than the avaricious ! See that you do not come to the 
same end as the fish. Beware of the hook and the net ! 

But you do not anticipate any resistance to your power. 
The silurus did not foresee that someone would throw out 
a fish-hook or stretch out a net. He believed that, if he were 
caught in the net, he would be able to break through it 
Still he did not escape the fisherman's trident. He became 
emeshed in bonds that were too strong to permit him to 
escape. Without a doubt, the more serious the iniquities 
which he commits, the more difficult is it for a person to 
escape his crimes, until one day he is forced to pay for his 
evil deeds the debt which is certainly difficult for him to 
avoid. 

Chapter 6 

(15) We are justified, therefore, in comparing man to a 
fish. Listen to the reason for that statement: 'And the king- 
dom of heaven is like to a net cast into the sea that gathered 
in fish of every kind. When it was filled, they hauled it out 
and sitting down on the beach, they gathered the good fish 
into vessels, but threw away the bad. So will it be at the end 
of the world. The angels will go out and separate the wicked 
from among the just and will cast them into the furnace of 
fire/ 1 

Fish, then, are either good or bad. The good are pre- 
served for their reward; the bad are straightway burned. 
The good fish is not ensnared by the net, but is lifted up. 
He is not slain or killed by the hook, but is suffused with 
the blood of a precious wound. In his mouth is found the 

1 Matt. 13.47-50. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 171 

good price by which the apostolic tribute and the tax due to 
Christ may be paid. 2 For thus is it written in the words of the 
Lord : Trom whom do the kings of the earth receive tribute 
or customs; from their own sons or from others? And Peter 
replied: "from others." The Lord said: "Go to the sea and 
cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up. And 
opening its mouth thou wilt find a stater; take that and give 
it to them for me and for thee." ' 3 

(16) Do not, then, hold in fear, my good fish, the hook 
of Peter. It does not kill. Rather, it consecrates. Do not 
underestimate yourself because your body is weak. You have 
in your mouth something which may serve as an offering 
for Peter and for Christ. Do not hold in fear the nets of 
Peter, to whom Jesus speaks: 4 Tut out into the deep and 
lower your nets for a catch.' He does not throw out his net 
on the left, but on the right side as was commanded by 
Christ. Do not have fear for his catch, because it was to him 
that was said: 'Henceforth thou shalt catch men alive.' 
He threw out his net, therefore, and caught Stephen, who in 
the Gospel was the first to arise having in his mouth a stater 
of justice. Whence he called out with sure confession of 
faith : 'Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man 
standing at the right hand of God.' 5 The Lord Jesus is a 
true representative of this fish, for He knew that in the 
mouth of the fish there was the tribute of His tax. Stephen, 
a generous witness of his faith, fulfilled the judgment and 
the teaching of Peter on him as well as the grace of Christ 
by a glorious martyrdom, 

2 Cf. Matt. 17.26. 

3 Matt. 17.24-26. 

4 Luke 5.4. 

5 Acts 7.55. 



172 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 7 

(17) Do not be troubled by the fact that I have compared 
the Gospel to a sea. The sea is the Gospel on which Christ 
walked. It is the Gospel on which Peter, with the support 
of Christ's right hand, discovered a defense for his faith 
and the grace of stability, although he swerved from the 
way by denying Him. And it is precisely from the Gospel 
that Stephen arose. The Gospel is the sea in which the 
Apostles fish, into which is cast the net which is like the 
kingdom of heaven. 1 The Gospel is the sea in which the 
mysteries of Christ are revealed. The Gospel is the sea by 
which the Hebrew made his escape and the Egyptian was 
overwhelmed and slain. 2 The Gospel is the sea, because the 
Church is the bride of Christ and is also the plenitude of 
divine grace, which is poured over the seas, as the Prophet 
said: 'He hath founded it upon the seas.' 3 Man should 
immerse himself in the waters, because he is in truth a fish. 
Let not the floods of this world overwhelm you. If there is 
a storm, make for the high seas and the depths. If the 
weather is calm, play in the waves. If a tempest should 
come, beware lest the seething waters drive you on the 
rocky shore, for it is written: 'Be therefore wise as serpents.' 4 

(18) Since the example of the cunning serpent has been 
offered, let us be cunning, also, in regard to entrance into 
the state of matrimony and to remaining therein. Let us 
love this mutual association which has become our lot. 
If those who have at the time of their births lived in entirely 

1 Matt 13.47. 

2 Cf. Exod. 14.21-24. 

3 Ps. 23.2. 

4 Matt. 10.16. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 173 

different regions yet agree to live together, if it happens that 
the husband should undertake a trip to a foreign land, no 
distance or abstinence should diminish the cherished love of 
the pair. The same law binds the present and the absent; 
the same bond of nature cements together the rights of con- 
jugal love between the absent as well as between the present. 
The necks of both parties are linked together in the same 
beneficent yoke, even if one of them should find himself in 
regions entirely remote, because both parties share in the 
yoke of grace which is one of the spirit, not of the body. 

When the viper, the deadliest kind of animal and the most 
cunning of the whole species of serpents, evinces a desire for 
copulation, he searches for a sea-murena already known to 
him or he seeks for a new mate. Proceeding toward the shore, 
he makes his presence known by a hissing sound, whereby 
he invites conjugal embrace. The sea-murena does not repulse 
the appeal and yields to the poisonous serpent the desired 
enjoyment of their conjugal bond. 

What is the purpose of such a discussion as this, if it does 
not mean that we should put up with our married partner 
and, if he is away from home, that we should await his 
return to his family? Although he may be cruel, deceitful, 
uncouth, wayward, and drunken, can this be more intoler- 
able than the poison which is no obstacle to the sea-murena 
in dealing with her mate? When invited, she does not fail 
to respond and embraces the slimy serpent with great affec- 
tion. The male endures your defects and your feminine 
levities. Can you not bear with your husband? Adam was 
deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam. 5 It is right that he whom 
the woman enticed to do wrong should assume the office of 

5 Cf. 1 Tim. 2.14. 



174 SAINT AMBROSE 

guide, lest he fall once more because of feminine instability. 

But he is repugnant and uncouth ! Yes, but he pleased you 
at one time. Do you think that a husband should be chosen 
more than once? The ox and the horse look for and cherish 
their mates, and, if a substitution takes place, they are unable 
to carry the yoke together. They feel that they do not form 
an integral part of the team. You repudiate your yoke-mate 
and think that a frequent change should be made. If one 
day he fails you, you bring in a rival and straightway with- 
out knowing why, yet knowingly, you do violence to your 
sense of modesty. 

The viper searches for his absent mate, calls to her with 
a hiss of invitation. When he feels his mate approaching, 
he spits forth the poison with due regard for his consort and 
the nuptial rite. Why do you repel your husband coming 
back from a far country? The viper gazes upon the sea in 
an endeavor to find his consort. You put obstacles in the 
path of your husband. You stir up the poison of litigation. 
You reject him and in the conjugal embrace emit dread 
poison, scorning your husband and putting to shame your 
nuptial bond. 

(19) As for the man for we can apply this example to 
him, also: lay aside the inordinate emotions of your heart and 
the rudeness of your manners when you meet your patient 
wife. Get rid of your obstinacy when your gentle consort 
offers you her love. You are not a master, but a husband. 
You have not acquired perchance a handmaid, but a wife. 
God designed you to be a guide to the weaker sex, not a 
dictator. Be a sharer in her activities. Be a sharer in her love. 
The viper pours forth his poison; can you not get rid of your 
hardness of heart? Although you have by nature a severity 
of character, you ought to temper it in consideration of your 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 175 

married state and control your tendency to rudeness by 
holding in respect your conjugal relationship. 

There are occasions for sin. Do not seek the bed that be- 
longs to another. Do not by guile enter into another union. 
Adultery is a grievous offense. It does violence to nature. 
At the beginning God formed two creatures, Adam and Eve ; 
that is, man and wife. He formed woman from the man; 
this is, from the rib of Adam. He bade them both to live 
in one body and in one spirit. Why, then, do you cleave one 
body apart? Why do you divide one spirit? That is an 
adulterous offense against nature. It is a lesson which is 
taught us by the willing union of sea-murena and viper, a 
union not grounded on similarity of species, but on ardent 
desire. Give ear, men! He who desires association with such 
a serpent may be likened to one who seeks occasion to have 
adulterous relations with another man's wife. It can be said 
that he has the very traits of a serpent. He hastens to the 
viper who embraces him in the devious ways of lubricity, 
not in the righteous ways of love. He hastens to one who 
takes up again his poison like the viper and who is said to 
consume again the poison, once the act of copulation has 
been completed. The adulterer is like a viper. Hence Solomon 
says that when a man is intoxicated his passions are aroused. 
His body is swollen as if bitten by a snake and his poison is 
spread abroad like a basilisk's. That you may realize that he 
has spoken of an adulterer, he added these words: 'Thy 
eyes shall behold strange women and thy mouth shall utter 
perverse things/ 6 

(20) Do not form the opinion that we have based our 
argument on contradictions, in that we have made use of 
the example of a viper in order to point both a good and a 

6 Prov. 22,33, 



176 SAINT AMBROSE 

bad moral. It serves the purposes of instruction to bring 
forward a two-fold consideration. On the one hand, we 
are like the serpent in being ashamed to be loyal to our 
beloved. Again, by severing the bonds of holy matrimony we 
prefer the harmful and the lubricous, as in the case of union 
with a serpent, to what is really and truly salutary. 



Chapter 8 

(21) As we have entered upon a discussion on the trait 
of craftiness, whereby a man strives to circumvent ^and de- 
ceive his brother and to contrive new ways of deception, thus 
trapping by guile and trickery a person whom he cannot 
overcome by force, it is not my intention to overlook the 
well-known deceitful character of the polypus. This animal, 
coming upon a rock on a shallow coast, fixes itself firmly 
on it. At the same time, it assumes by subtle art the color 
of the rock and conceals its back in a similar fashion. In this 
manner a great number of fish, unsuspecting any fraud and 
innocently believing that what they see is a rock, are taken 
into this artfully contrived trap to be waylaid by the tentacles 
of the polypus, 

The prey thus makes its approach without external com- 
pulsion. It is captured by such methods as one would expect 
of those who often change their nature and stir up diverse 
means of ill, 1 so as to tempt the minds and hearts of all 
severally. Some boast of their continence when in converse 
with the continent. Associating with the intemperate, they 
show themselves to be devoid of chastity and to wallow in 
the troughs of intemperance. Those who see or hear them 
yield easily to their influence and for that reason soon fall 
into temptation, being unable to turn aside or avoid what 

1 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 7.338 (Allecto). 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 177 

is likely to injure them. Weakness, when cloaked in the veil 
of benignity, can inflict harm of a more serious nature. And 
so we should be aware of those who extend the tentacles of 
their deceit far and wide or those who assume various 
shapes. These people are like the polypus that has manifold 
entanglements and many astute ways by which it can en- 
snare whatever falls into the rocky shores wherein we are 
beguiled. 

(22) What tricks are displayed by the crab in its eager 
search for food ! The oyster is a special objective in its quest 
for a delicious banquet. But its eagerness for food is tempered 
by its sense of the possibility of being involved in danger, 
for the chase is as difficult as it is perilous. Its difficulty lies 
in the fact that the flesh of its victim is enclosed in a shell 
of more than usual solidity. Just as in compliance with 
divine power the delicacy of the flesh of its prey has been 
stoutly defended by nature which nourishes and fosters it 
in the form of an encircling rampart, so all in vain are the 
crab's attacks, because the closed oyster cannot be opened by 
any display of force. There is the danger, too, that the 
oyster may hook it in its claws. Therefore, the crab resorts 
to artifice and contrives new ways of waylaying its prey. 

Accordingly, since every living being is attracted by senti- 
ments of pleasure, the crab looks for an occasion when the 
oyster, finding a place protected from the wind and within 
range of the sun's rays, opens wide its double doors and 
unbars the bolts of its shell in order to enjoy to the full the 
open air. At that moment the crab, by stealthily injecting a 
pebble within the shell of the oyster, prevents it from 
being closed. Having acquired an entrance in this manner, 
the crab insterts its claws without danger to itself and devours 
the flesh within the shell. 

(23) There are men who, like the crab, exercise surrepti- 
tiously their guile on others and fortify their own weaknesses 



178 SAINT AMBROSE 

by the use of certain inherent characteristics. Thus they 
weave a web of deceit around their brethren and find their 
sustenance in another's anxieties. 

Be content with what is your own and do not let your 
well-being be based on doing harm to your neighbor. You 
may find your livelihood in the simplicity of innocence. The 
man in possession of his own good knows nothing of way- 
laying others. He is not inflamed by the desires of the avari- 
cious man^ whose every gain is at the expense of virtue and 
a further incentive to cupidity. Therefore, 'should he come 
to know his blessings/ 2 the poor man is truly happy who 
lives righteously in a manner which is to be preferred to all 
the treasures of the world, because 'better a little with the 
fear of the Lord than great treasures without fear.' How 
much under these circumstance does man need to support 
life? If you go beyond that little and seek that, also, which 
others find pleasure in possessing, that, too, has little to 
commend it: 'It is better to be invited to herbs with love 
than to a fatted calf with hatred.' 3 

Let us use our talents, therefore, for the acquisition of 
gtace and the attainment of salvation, not for the circum- 
vention of others who harm us not. We may well make use 
of examples taken from the sea, not for the purpose of 
exposing others to danger, but to make ourselves more 
perfect in the way of salvation. 



Chapter 9 

(2) The urchin, a tiny, common and despicable animal 
I refer to the sea variety is frequently used by navigators 
as a sign of a threatening storm or as a harbinger of clear 

2 Virgil, Georgics 2.458. 

3 Prov. 15.16,17. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 179 

weather. The reason for this lies in the fact that at the 
approach of a wind storm this little creature takes hold of a 
fairly large pebble and uses it as a sort of ballast or anchor 
so as to avoid being carried out of the water. 1 Thus it 
balances and directs itself by means of an alien weight, not 
by its innate strength. This sign gives an indication to the 
sailor that a storm is brewing. Accordingly, he takes pre- 
cautions lest the sudden approach of a hurricane may find 
him unprepared. 

What follower of the occult sciences, astrologer, or Chal- 
dean can reveal in a comparable way the course of the 
stars, the movement of the heavens, and of the zodiacal 
signs? By what natural instinct has the tiny creature acquired 
this art? What teacher has instructed it? Who served as its 
interpreter of augural lore? Men behold the turmoil in the 
air and are often deceived, because at times the winds rush 
in without bringing on a tempest. The sea-urchin is not 
beguiled. Never at any time do its special signs fail to bring 
results. 

(25) Whence did this tiny creature acquire such sure 
knowledge of the future? As there is nothing in the animal 
itself which can make possible such foreknowledge, be 
assured that it, too, has obtained the gift of prescience 
through the loving-kindness of the Lord of all things. 

For, if God so clothes the grass of the field that we are 
struck with admiration; if He feeds the birds of the air; 2 
'if he provides food for the raven, when her young ones 
cry to God'; 3 if He has given to women skill in the art of 
weaving; if the spider, who so artfully and delicately 'hangs 
on the doorway her loose-woven nets,' 4 is not left bereft of 

1 Cf. Virgil, Georgia 4.194-196. (bees) . 

2 Cf. Matt. 6.26,30. 

3 Job 38.41. 

4 Virgil, Georgics 4.247. 



180 SAINT AMBROSE 

wisdom; if He has given strength to the horse and sends 
forth terror from his mane, so that he exults in the field and 
laughs in the face of kings as he smells the battle afar off 
and is aroused by the sound of the trumpet 5 if He has filled 
with the largesse of His wisdom these manifold irrational 
creatures as well as the grass and lilies of the field, 6 who 
can doubt but that He has distributed this gift of fore- 
knowledge also to the sea-urchin? 

He has left nothing unexplored, nothing unrevealed. He 
sees all who nourishes all. He fills all things with wisdom 
who, as it is written, 'has made all things in wisdom.' 7 And 
so, if He has not neglected the sea-urchin as beyond the 
range of His visitation ; if He has care of it and moulds it so 
as to enable it to see signs of what is to come if that is true, 
has He no care of you and yours? Surely He has, as He 
testifies in the words of His own holy Scripture: 'Look at 
the birds of the air' ; if He feeds them, *are not you of much 
more value than they'? 8 For, if God so clothes 'the grass 
of the field which flourishes today and tomorrow is thrown 
into the oven, how much more you, O you of little faith?' 9 



Chapter 10 

(26) Are we to suppose that fish without a special gift of 
nature possess also that instinct whereby each species has 
allotted to it a definite space which no one species may 
leave and into which no other species may enter? What 
geometer has plotted the bounds of these habitations, never 
at any time to be broken? We have heard of one who has 

5 Cf. Job 39.19-25. 

6 Cf. Matt. 6.28. 

7 Ps. 103.24. 

8 Matt. 6.26; Luke 12.28. 

9 Matt. 6.30. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 181 

measured land, never of one \vho has applied measurements 
to the sea. Yet fish know their own confines, which are not 
bounded by city walls, by gates, or by buildings; neither are 
they marked as in the boundaries of fields. But each has a 
terminal limit of space in accordance with its need, so that 
only so much is given to each as to satisfy completely its wants 
not so much as its unregulated greed can claim for itself. 

There is, if I may say so, a law of nature that one should 
seek only what suffices for nourishment and that the allot- 
ment 'which thy fathers have set' 1 should be in proportion 
to the need for food. One species of fish breeds and flourishes 
in one arm of the sea; another species, in another. Hence, 
you will not find different species of fish mixed together. 
What in one place is abundant is, contrariwise, lacking 
elsewhere. This bay is the haunt of the cephali. In another 
bay we find the sea-wolves. In still another live certain 
species of crustaceans. Each is not free to wander as it pleases, 
yet the passage is not impeded by intervening mountain 
ranges nor by river channels. Rather, by force of habit each 
one is by nature constrained to keep itself within the bounds 
of its native habitat and to consider suspect a fish that 
leaves the regions of its fellows. 

(27) But for us, men, there are far different sentiments. 
We desire change for various reasons: a wish for travel, for 
release from daily associations. We long for the approval of 
strangers and to remove the age-long boundaries which our 
ancestors have set up, adding estate to estate, household to 
household. 

The earth alone does not suffice. We use the sea itself for 
our foundations. On the other hand, in compliance with 
individual whims, the land is excavated and sea water is 
brought in so as to form islands or straits for men's use. 2 Men 

1 Prov. 22.31. 

2 Cf. Horace, Odes 2.18.17-26. 



182 SAINT AMBROSE 

claim the sea for themselves by right of ownership and 
boast that they have subjected fishes like slaves to a condi- 
tion of servitude. This, they say, is my bay; that one belongs 
to another. Like sovereigns, they divide the elements among 
themselves. For some people, oysters are bred in water. For 
others, fish are enclosed in a fish pond* 

The sea does not suffice for their luxuriant living. They 
must have reserve stores of oysters* They keep a reckoning 
of the age of each oyster bed. Receptacles are built for the 
fish in case the rich man's table may not be replenished from 
the sea. How they are all ears when the word 'neighbor 3 is 
mentioned! How eagerly will they gaze on his possessions! 
What plans enter their minds day and night to take some- 
thing away from their neighbors ! 'Shall they alone dwell in 
the midst of the earth?' exclaims the Prophet. 3 The Lord 
is aware of this and waits to punish them. 

(28) How alien to the fish is this monstrous greed! Men 
seek after what is remote in the realm of nature. They are 
familiar with the seas beyond the bounds of the known 
world. There no islands intervene, nor are there bodies of 
land either in that region or situated beyond that point. 
For that reason, in that place where the wide extent of water 
precludes every desire to gaze upon it and every sentiment 
of boldness to sail thereon for the sake of gain, there the 
whale is said to have his lair. There, too, live a huge species 
of fish, reported to be mountainous in size by those who 
have ventured to approach and see them. This huge fish 
lives tranquilly there, remote from islands and uncontam- 
inated by the nearness of port towns. They have their 
separate habitats and locations all their own. They are un- 
affected by the presence of neighboring boundaries and do 
not desire frequent change of place and to flit aimlessly to 

3 isa. 5.8. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 



183 



and fro. 4 Rather, they cherish their habitat as their native 
land and consider it a delight to dwell therein. 5 They have 
selected these regions in order to pass their lives in solitary 
fashion, remote from interference and from contact with 
other creatures. 

(29) There is another species of fish which changes its 
location, not because of natural instability, but from the 
necessity of spawning. They formulate a plan and design to 
reach a certain place at a time of the year which is right and 
opportune. Gathering together, as if with joint purpose, 
from many places and from diverse inlets of the sea, they 
go out in search of the north wind, swimming in massed 
array. Impelled, as it were, by a law of nature, they hasten 
to their familiar haunts in the northern regions. If you were 
to behold this huge school of fish on the move, you would 
have the impression of encountering an ocean current 
such is the force of their onward rush through the waters, 
such is their mad desire to reach the Black Sea through the 
straits of Propontis. 

Who announces these places, who prescribes these seasons 
for the fish? Who has arranged their itinerary for them, 
their plan for mass movement, their destination, and the 
time of their return? Men, of course, have their commanders 
whose orders are waited, whose watchwords are agreed 
upon, whose edicts are made known to the people of the 
provinces for the purposes of assembly, and whose dispatches 
are sent to the military tribunes, fixing the day notwith- 
standing all these preparations, many people find it impossible 
to come on the appointed days. What commanding officer 
has given the order? What teacher has given this this in- 
struction, what surveyor has plotted the journey, what guide 
has led the way, so that no obstacle is encountered? 

4 Cf. Lucretius 3.1057,1058. 

5 Eccle. 3.2, 



184 SAINT AMBROSE 

But I am aware of the identity of the Commander, who 
by reason of divine dispensation infuses His orders in the 
senses of all created things, who, without the use of words, 
allows mute animals to follow the directions of natural in- 
stinct. His instruction reaches even to the smallest creatures; 
it is not limited to the largest. Fishes follow a divine law, 
whereas men contravene it. Fishes duly comply with the 
celestial mandates, but men make void the precepts of God. 
Because a fish is mute and deprived of reason, is it, therefore, 
an object of contempt in your eyes? See to it that you do 
not begin to be more contemptible to yourself, if you prove 
yourself to be more irrational than the irrational creatures. 

What is more rational than this migration of fish, a pro- 
cedure which becomes less intelligible as we recount it than 
it is when we look at the facts themselves. They advance in 
summer time to the straits of the Black Sea because the water 
in this region is sweeter than in others. The sun does not 
linger in those waters as long as it does elsewhere. There is 
not, therefore, a loss of sweet and drinkable water. Who is 
not aware of the fact that marine animals often find delight 
in fresh water? Hence it happens that different species of 
fish are frequently caught while they are on the way to 
spawn in the upper reaches of a river. 

This, therefore, may be the reason why they manifest pre- 
ference for the Black Sea. It may well be, too, that the pre- 
vailing north wind tempers the summer heat there. Again, 
they select that region as a more suitable one for the task of 
bringing up their offspring. Their young, in fact, can 
hardly endure exposure to the vicissitudes of a different 
climate. The gentle clemency of the climate in that locality 
fosters their growth. Accordingly, when their objective is 
achieved, all return together to the point from which they 
departed. 

(30) Let us reflect on the reason for this. The Black Sea 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 185 

forms a body of water which is exposed to the north wind 
and to other winds of the most violent nature. Hence, when 
a severe storm rages and tempests are brewing in that region, 
sand is churned up from the deep, as the turbidness of the 
water there gives proof. This condition is intensified by the 
force of the wind. The water becomes more dense and pre- 
sents, we can be sure, an intolerable situation not only for 
sailors, but even for animal life in the sea. An additional 
reason is offered by the condition of the Black Sea itself. 
Into it flow numerous and mighty rivers. Hence, this body 
of water is very cold in the winter season and freezes over, 
augmented by the continual inflow. Wherefore the fish, 
acting like supreme lords of the waters, seek to take ad- 
vantage of the cooler air there in the summer season. When 
they have enjoyed this pleasant temperature, they hasten 
back once more in order to avoid the wintry blasts. So they 
flee from the bitter weather of the northern regions and take 
themselves into other bodies of water where the winds are 
kindlier and calmer or where a more temperate sun can 
bring spring-like weather. 

The fish knows 'the time to be born. 36 Solomon in his 
wisdom declared this to be a great mystery, this knowledge 
of the time to go and the time to return, the time for per- 
formance and the time for change. Fish are not deceived 
in this knowledge, because they follow an instinct of nature, 
the true teacher of loyal devotion, and not the deliberations 
of reason and rhetorical argumentation. Hence, all living 
creatures have a prescribed time for bringing forth offspring. 
By man alone are such times undetermined and ill-planned. 
The other creatures seek out a season of clement weather. 
It falls to women alone to give birth in seasons of inclemency. 
An unsettled and arbitrary desire to produce offspring leads 
to an uncertain time for childbirth. 

6 Eccle. 3.2. 



186 SAINT AMBROSE 

Fish cross over so many seas in order to bestow some 
benefit on their species. We, too, cross over manifold seas. 
But how much more commendable is a voyage which is 
undertaken, not for the sake of material profit, but for the 
love of one's offspring! Loyal devotion is the propelling 
motive in their case. In our case the motive is commercial 
gain. They bring back with them their own progeny, more 
precious to them than any kind of merchandise. Urged by 
a dire lust for gain, we bring back a cargo that is far from 
atoning for the dangers involved. They make an effort to 
reach their home, while we abandon it. They, as a result of 
their migration, acquire an addition to their species. We, 
on the other hand, in the course of navigation are subject 
to a decrease. 

(31) When we behold this preparation made with such 
keenness of instinct for a ritualistic migration to the north for 
the production of a numerous progeny, and again when we 
note that other marine animals possess such power in their tiny 
bodies that they are able to bring to a stop mighty ships 
sailing along under full sail, who would then deny that 
such an instinct and capacity have been infused in them by 
a divine power? We have reference here to a little fish called 
echeneis, which is said to slow up without effort a huge ship. 
The vessel seems to be adrift and, as it were, rooted in the 
sea, for at times this fish keeps the ship motionless. Do you 
suppose that this marine animal has such potential power 
without the aid of divine intervention? 

What shall I say of the sword-fish, the saw-fish, the sea- 
dog, the whale, or the hammer-fish? What shall I say of 
the turtle which inflicts a sting even when dead? Just as a 
person who treads on the still palpitating head of a viper is 
said to suffer a more serious injury in fact, an incurable 
wound 7 than he would from poison, so, too, a turtle when 

7 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.190; 10.189. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 187 

dead is reported to inflict a more dangerous wound from its 
sting than it does when alive. Again, the hare, which is a 
timid animal on land, is formidable as a sea animal and 
causes infection which spreads rapidly and is not easily 
cured. The Creator has so ordained it that not even at sea 
are you to be quite safe from lurking perils. Because of these 
few harmful creatures you should take your stand like a 
sentry on guard, armed always with the weapons of faith and 
the shield of devotion, awaiting the protection of your Lord. 



Chapter 11 

(32) We wish, now, to return to the Atlantic Ocean. 
What whales are found there, of huge bulk and measureless 
size! If they were to float on the surface of the sea, you 
would imagine that they were islands or extremely high 
mountains whose peaks reach to the sky! These animals are 
said to appear, not on the coast or on shore, but in the 
depths of the Atlantic Ocean. To catch sight of them sailors 
are enticed to risk navigation within those regions. But these 
elemental mysteries are not likely to be faced without ex- 
periencing mortal terror! 

(33) Now let us rise upward from the depths of the sea. 
Let our discourse emerge a little therefrom and take itself 
to higher regions. Let us take note of matters which are 
pleasing in themselves and which also have come under the 
observation of many people. We hear of water changing into 
masses of salt so solid that an axe is frequently required to 
cut it. In fact, we do not need to marvel at what is reported 
of salt in Britain. This takes on the appearance and the 
dazzling splendor of marble itself and, in addition, is a 
salutary aid to bodily needs of food and drink. Note, too, 
how the not unpleasing coral is only a sea plant which, when 



188 SAINT AMBROSE 

exposed to the air, becomes solid as a stone. We see how 
nature has inserted in the oyster a highly valuable pearl, 
which by the action of sea water has become a solid particle 
within the oyster's soft flesh. Wealth which is hardly attain- 
able by kings lies open to common gaze along our shores. 
It is found in, and gathered from, rugged rock and cliff. 

Water also produces a 'golden fleece' and the sea coasts 
are the source of a wool which is similar in appearance to 
the metal just mentioned. Its color has not been duplicated 
up to now by those who apply to woolen goods different 
types of dye. For that reason human ingenuity is unable to 
compete with the natural products of the sea. We are aware 
of the care and attention given to the less costly sheep's wool. 
No matter how perfect it is, under no circumstances do we 
find wool that comes naturally dyed. Here is a color that is 
natural a color never yet approached by the application of 
dyes. And to think that this [golden] fleece is a fish! More- 
over, the shell-fish that yields the purple which distinguishes 
a king is itself a marine animal. 

(34) What delightful scenes in meadow or garden can 
equal the prospect of a light blue sea? Your flowers may 
flash forth a golden hue, but the wool of the sea has its 
golden refulgence, too! Whereas the colors of the flowers 
quickly fade, the other retains its hue for many a day ! From 
afar we note the lily's brilliance in the garden. From afar, 
too, we see the flashing sails of the ships. A breath of perfume 
follows one; a breeze, the other. What use does a leaf supply 
to equal the advantage of the commerce of ships at sea? 
Lilies give us sweet odors for the pleasure of our senses, 
whereas sailing ships bring sustenance for mankind. 

Add to this the picture of the flying fish and the frollicking 
dolphin. Moreover, there is the additional delight in the 
roar of the resounding billows, in the sight of ships flitting to 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 189 

shore or sailing out to sea. 'Even as when from the barriers 
the chariots stream forth' 1 what an occasion for delight and 
enthusiasm on the part of the spectators! Yet, in contrast to 
the ships of commerce, the steed runs to no purpose. The 
latter, because devoid of cargo, runs in vain. 2 The other has 
its holds filled with sustenance for men. 

What is more to be desired than what is speeded along, 
not by the impulse of a whip, but by a breeze, where there 
is nothing to hinder one's progress, where all is favorable., 
and where no one who reaches his goal is a loser. 3 All the 
boats which come to land are given a wreath. The palm is 
the prize for a successful voyage and victory is the reward for 
their homecoming. What a difference between the outgoing 
course and the return ! One shows a cautious pace. The other 
is affected by the urge to make the goal. Add to this the 
sight of the shore with its line of boats awaiting a breeze 
from the skies as a signal for the start. Whereas the charioteer 
at the conclusion of his race is granted mere empty applause, 
the boatmen take part in giving thanks for their safe return. 

(35) How shall I adequately speak of Jonas, whom the 
whale swallowed to grant him life and to return him to his 
activity as a prophet? The water restored to him the under- 
standing which the earth had taken away. He who grieved 
when on land began to sing psalms in the belly of the whale, 
Again, the redemption of both elements is not lost sight of. 
The salvation of the earth had its forerunner in the sea 3 
because the marvelous act of Jonas stands for that of the 
Son of Man. As Jesus lay in the heart of the earth,' 4 so was 
Jonas in the whale's belly. There is salvation in both elements, 
However, the sea furnishes a more significant example oi 

1 Virgil, Georgics 1.512. 

2 Cf. Ps. 32.17. 

3 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 5.268,269. 

4 Matt. 12.39. 



1 90 SAINT AMBROSE 

piety, since a fish gave welcome to him whom men had 
repelled and has preserved, in the person of Jonas, Him 
whom men have crucified. Peter, too, weakened when on the 
sea, 5 but he did not fall. What he had admitted on the 
waters, however, he denied on land. 6 And so, in the former 
occasion he was accorded a hand-clap as to one who was 
loyal; in the latter case, because of his forgetfulness, he was 
met with a look of rebuke. 7 

But now let us request the Lord that our words, like those 
of Jonas, be cast on the land and not be suffered to float 
any longer on the sea. And it was well that the gourd-vine 
sprang up so as to shield us from misfortunes. But the earth, 
now parched by the advancing sun, warns us to seek rest, 
lest our minds begin to suffer from the earth's heat and our 
words, too, may fail us. Be assured that water has been given 
to us, more than it was to the Ninevites, as a source for the 
remission of sins. s 

5 Cf. Matt. 14,30. 

6 Cf. Matt, 26.69-75. 

7 Cf. Luke 22.61. 

8 Cf. Jonas 4.6-11. 



THE EIGHTH HOMILY 

Chapter 12 

He remained silent for a little while and then resumed his 
discourse. 

(36) We have shied away, beloved brethren, from the 
necessity of dealing with birds, and our discussion on this 
subject might have taken wing along with the birds! It 
follows, somehow, as a natural consequence that those who 
hold some object in view or who desire to give expression 
to it in words are apt to take on the qualities of that which 
they behold or of that which they express orally. The result is 
that we linger, when exposed to what is more than usually 
inactive, and our observation takes on speed with the swift 
action of the object in view. This variability extends, also, 
to the area of literary style. Accordingly, at the moment 
when I am on my guard lest objects sunk deep in the sea 
may escape my observation at such a moment the entire 
race of winged creatures has already escaped my ken. While 
I was bent over in diligent examination of the lowest depths 
of the sea, I paid no heed to the aerial flights of birds and 

191 



192 SAINT AMBROSE 

not even the shadow of 'nimble wings' 2 flashing in the waters 
has caused me to verge from my task. 

In fact, when I arrived at the point where I believed that 
I had exhausted nry subject, and when I felt that I had 
completed the fifth day, this reflection came into my mind: 
It is customary for the birds at nesting time 'to charm the 
sky with song,' 3 in joy that their allotted task is done. This 
usually happens, following, as it were, a ritual pattern, at 
dawn and at sunset, when the birds sing the praises of their 
Creator, at the moment of transition from day to night or 
from night to day. By such an omission I would have lost a 
mighty incentive for arousing our religious devotion. For 
what person of natural human sensibility would not blush 
to terminate the day without a ritual singing of the psalms, 
since even the tiniest bird ushers in the approach of day and 
night with customary devotion of sweet song? 

(37) Let us return, therefore, to a discussion of the winged 
flock. We have almost lost sight of them as, like eagles they 
have taken flight, and hidden themselves amid the clouds, 
We realize that our pen should be recalled to the task when 
our eyes, laved in the waters, reached from the sea upwards 
to the sky and there beheld the birds 'borne through the 
empty air.' 4 You who are snarers of my words will act as 
judges as to whether they have flown off with better purpose 
or whether they have fallen into your nets to add to your 
good fortune. 

I am not disturbed in my discussion on birds by any 
possibility of boredom in your part a boredom which was 
not in evidence when I examined the depths. Otherwise, 
some of us would have nodded off during my sermon, only 
to be awakened by the song of birds. But I surely have no 

2 Virgil, Aeneid 6.15. 

3 Ibid. 7.34. 

4 Virgil, Georgics 3.109. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 193 

doubt that those who kept awake amid the mute company 
of fish will be unable to fall asleep when the birds sing, such 
is their charm to inspire wakefulness. A subject which might 
well have been passed over in our treatment of the third part 
of created living beings should not, in fact, be regarded as an 
indifferent one. The fact that there are three races of living 
creatures those of the earth, the air, and the water is not 
open to doubt. Therefore it has been written : 'Let the waters 
bring forth reptiles, living creatures according to their kind, 
and winged creatures, flying over the earth along the firma- 
ment of heaven, each according to its kind.' 5 

(38) We are recalled to our previous theme like forgetful 
travelers who, because they have heedlessly passed their des- 
tination, are compelled to return. He, however, is a good 
traveler who makes up for the loss of time involved in re- 
tracing his steps by corresponding speed in the rest of his 
journey. I believe that I should act especially in this way 
now that I have come to the subject of birds, whose speedy 
flight often dazzles the eyes of men. 6 Why should one see 
fit to linger in those subjects in which swiftness generally 
brings pleasure? Let our discussion get on its pathless and 
unwonted way of literary composition. Let it resound and 
'ring with the musical song of birds. 57 

(39) But where shall I find the swan's song which gives 
us pleasure when sung in moments of grave danger, even to 
the point of imminent death? Where shall we find those 
strains of natural chant which emanate even from marshy 
regions strains of most tuneful and delightful music? Where 
shall I find the voice of the parrot and the sweet song of the 
blackbird? Would that the nightingale were to give forth a 
song to arouse a sleeper from his slumber! That is the bird 

5 Gen. 1.20-24, 

6 A Ciceronian expression; cf. De senectute 12,42. 

7 Virgil, Georgics 2.328. 



194 SAINT AMBROSE 

accustomed to signal the rising of the sun at dawn and to 
spread abroad joy more penetrating than morning light. 
Still, if sweetness is lacking to their song, we have with us 
the moaning turtle-dove, the cooing pigeon/ and 'the raven 
who with deep tones calls down the rain.' 9 Wherefore let us 
illustrate as far as we can in our discourse the 'haunts of the 
birds* 10 in the countryside, relying on the knowledge which 
we have garnered from rustic folk. 



Chapter 13 

(40) Now that we have discussed creeping creatures in 
the water, it is a highly difficult task to transfer our discourse 
at a moment's notice upwards to the birds in the sky. Let us, 
then, first speak of these birds which frequent the seas and 
the rivers. With their aid we can emerge. Accordingly, let 
us begin our discussion with the halcyon. This is a sea bird 
that is to be found bringing up her young on the shore, 
depositing her eggs in the sand about mid-winter. This is the 
time allotted for the hatching, when the sea is at its stormiest 
and the waves make their most destructive inroads on the 
shore. Wherefore the graciousness of this bird should appear 
all the more evident because of the periodic and unexpected 
recurrence of calm weather, because atmospheric conditions 
suddenly take on a milder tinge at the moment when the 
eggs are laid, when the sea is still stormy. The stormy blasts 
and violent winds subside while the halcyon broods over her 
eggs, 'when the sea was at peace and still. 31 The eggs are 
hatched in seven days. At the end of that period the young 

8 Cf. Virgil, Eclogues 1.57,58. 

9 Virgil, Georgics 1.388. 
10 Ibid. 2.430. 



1 Virgil, Eclogues 2.26. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 195 

brood leaves the protecting shell. At this point there is an- 
other period of seven days, during which the fledglings are 
nourished until they grow to maturity. Do not wonder at the 
fact that such a slight amount of time is needed for their 
growth, because very few days are necessary for the com- 
pletion of the brooding stage. So much significance has been 
accorded by divine power to this tiny bird that sailors keep 
on the lookout for these fourteen days, which they call 
*halycon days,' during which they expect calm weather and 
dread no more the tumult of the raging tempest. 

(41) Are you not of more value than the sparrow?' 2 
Thus the Lord spoke. If, therefore, at the sight of a tiny bird 
the sea rises suddenly and as suddenly subsides, and if in the 
midst of winter's cruel storms and tempests a tranquillity, 
permeating all the elements, 'sweeps the clouds from the sky, 53 
quickly calming the waves if this is true, do you realize, 
you, a man made to the image of God, how much hope you 
ought to have, if only in your eagerness for a pious life you 
would imitate that little bird's trusting confidence. The 
halcyon is not turned aside from her purpose at the sight of 
the approaching tempest and of the winds that rage at 
winter's onrush rather, she is impelled all the more. Hence 
she lays her eggs on the shore where the sand, still wet from 
the retreating waves, welcomes them. She does not dread 
the rising waves, which she beholds as they break on the 
shore with threatening sound. 

(42) And that you may not conclude that the halcyon 
shows slight regard for her eggs, she builds her nest without 
delay at the very place where she laid her eggs. She broods 
over her offspring and, while the waves pound the shore, 
shows no fear for her own safety. Rather, she enstrusts her- 
self to the winds and waves, secure in the beneficence of 

2 Luke 12.7. 

3 Horace, Odes 1.7.15. 



196 SAINT AMBROSE 

God. That is not all Many more days still remain to com- 
plete the period of growth. During this time she has no fear 
that the tranquillity of the perfidious sea \vill be broken. 
She relies on her own merits, based now on the regular 
pattern of nature. She does not hide her brood in some 
secret corner of a house or in a cave. On the contrary, she 
entrusts them to the bare, cold ground. She does not protect 
them from the cold, but considers that they will be safer with 
the comfort of divine warmth, by means of which she may all 
other things disdain. 

Who is there among us who does not cover his little ones 
with garments and who does not protect and shield them 
within the walls of his home? Who is there who does not 
close the windows on all sides to prevent even the slighest 
breeze to enter? And while we so anxiously attend to clothing 
and warmth, we are therefore depriving them of the pro- 
tecting cover of celestial clemency, whereas the halcyon, by 
casting her brood out naked, has thereby clothed them with 
vesture that is divine. 

(43) I shall not overlook the diving gulls. They have ac- 
quired that name from their frequent diving operations. 
They are always able by their diving to gather signs of the 
approach of a wind storm. When they see a threatening 
tempest, they quickly 'fly back from mid-ocean' and with- 
draw 'while their screams rebound on the shore 3 to 
safety ! What shall I say of the waterfowl a bird that finds 
delight in the depths of the sea? Soon he sports in the 
shallows, after taking refuge from the sea's upheaval which 
he foresaw. And the heron that is found to frequent the 
marshes 'quits his familiar haunts' and, fearful of the rain 
storms, 'soars above the clouds' to escape the storms gener- 
ated in that region. Let us take note of the different varieties 
of sea birds, who at the coming of a wind storm take refuge 
in marshy regions, where they find a safer and for the 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 197 

moment a more pleasant habitation. They rummage round 
after their familiar food in some remote corner of the world. 4 
(44) Who does not marvel at the nightly sentry watches 
of the. geese, who give evidence of their vigilance by their 
constant cackling? That was the way in which they de- 
fended even the Roman Capitol from the Gauls. You, Rome, 
rightfully owe to them the preservation of your empire. 
Your gods were sleeping, but the geese were awake. And so 
on those festal days you perform sacrifices, not to Jupiter, 
but to a goose; your gods give way to the geese, who were 
once their defenders, as they came to realize. The gods them- 
selves might have been taken prisoners were it not for their 
aid. 5 

Chapter 14 

(44) After our description of the various fishes we have 
appropriately taken up next in order the subject of those 
birds that are also associated with water, in so far as they, 
too, in a similar fashion find pleasure in the art of swimming. 
Hence these birds seem to be primarily related to the fish 
species, since each has a certain element in common, that of 
being able to swim. The second elements which fishes and 
birds also share lies in the fact that the art of flying is an 
aspect of that of swimming. As a fish cuts through the water 
in the act of swimming, so a bird 'cuts the air' 1 in his swift 
flight. Both species are provided in a similar way with tails 
and 'with the oarage of wings.' 2 So the fish directs himself 
forward and advances to distant points by the aid of his 
wings [fins]. He uses his tail as a rudder in order to guide 

4 Virgil, Georgics 1.361,362,364,365; cf. 383,384. 

5 Cf. Servius on Aeneid 8.652; see Speculum 2 (1927) 477. 

1 Virgil, Georgics L406. 

2 A Virgilian expression; cf. Aeneid 6.19. 



198 SAINT AMBROSE 

himself or change his route by a sudden movement from one 
area to another. Birds also exercise their wings in the air as 
if they were floating on water, using them in the way one 
would use one's arms. By use of their tails they are able to 
direct themselves upward or downward at will. 

Hence, while all of these species follow the same pattern, 
they are but complying with the divine precept that places 
the origin of both in water. For God said: 'Let the waters 
bring forth reptiles, living creatures according to their kind, 
and winged creatures flying above the earth along the firma- 
ment of heaven, each according to its kind.' 3 Not without 
reason, therefore, do both species have the innate faculty 
of swimming, since both have their origin in water. 

(46) While, of course, both the slimy snake and all species 
of serpents who derive their name from the fact that they 
creep, not walk and the dragon, too, like the general run 
of fish are without legs, nevertheless there is no species of 
bird devoid of the use of legs. They need to obtain food from 
the earth. For this reason they use the support that legs give 
as a necessary aid in acquiring their natural food. Accord- 
ingly, other birds like the hawk and the eagle, who live by 
plunder, are provided with claws to catch their prey. Others 
make fitting use of them in the acts of either walking or of 
searching for food. 

(47) There is one name for 'bird, 3 but there are various 
species. Who can know them all or hold their names in 
memory? There are birds, for example, who live on flesh. 
Hence, they have sharp claws, a curved and sharp beak, and 
are swift on the wing. Thus they live by plunder, and are 
able to lay hold of what they pursue, and with their beaks 
and claws eviscerate it. There are birds, also, that search for 
and find their food in seeds. Others search for different kinds 
of food as they come upon them. 

3 Gen. 1.20-23. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 199 

There is diversity, too, in the way in which they group 
together. Those birds that are intent on plunder are devoid 
of this tendency. They do not act in common, because of their 
rapacity and the necessity of snaring their prey. Hence they 
disassociate themselves from groups for greed avoids par- 
ticipation moreover, a large flock would easily betray its 
own purposes. For birds of this sort there is no group life 
except that of conjugal relationship. This is the mode of life 
among the eagles and hawks. On the other hand, birds such 
as doves, cranes, starlings, crows, ravens, and even thrushes 
flock together for the most part. 

(48) There are also other species of birds. Some are sta- 
tionary, that is, stay in one place. Others are migratory birds 
who fly off to other regions and return at the end of winter. 
Still others return to us in winter time and fare abroad in 
summer. In the former case they seek a warmer climate in 
winter. In the latter case they spend the summer each year 
in those places which they know to be pleasanter. Hence 
thrushes return at the end of autumn when winter is already 
beginning and summer has passed for them. We contrive 
snares for them, acting as cruel hosts. We catch them in dif- 
ferent ways, either by surprising them when they land or by 
deceiving them by a whistling sound, or by trying 'to snare 
game in toils.' 4 The stork returns, holding high the standard 
of spring. The crane, because of his partiality for flying high, 
often finds delight in voyaging afar. 

(49) Some birds submit themselves to be handled. They 
are 'accustomed to the table,' 5 and are delighted to be 
fondled. Other birds shrink from this through fear. Some 
find pleasure in frequenting man's habitations, whereas others 
choose to live in remote deserts, where their difficulties in 
procuring food find compensation in their love of liberty. 

4 Virgil, Georgics 1.139. 

5 Virgil, Aeneid 7.490. 



200 SAINT AMBROSE 

Some birds utter cries, while others delight us with sweet 
and modulated song. Certain birds by nature, others by 
training, learn 'to match the measures' 6 of different tones, so 
much so that you would think a man, and not a bird, had 
spoken. How sweet is the voice of the blackbird; how distinct 
the words of the parrot ! 

There are also other birds; some guileless like the dove, 
or artful like the partridge. The cock is inclined to be boast- 
ful; the peacock, to be vain. There are birds, too, that dis- 
play diversities in their lives and habits. Some love to con- 
sult together in groups, thus helping to form by their com- 
bined strength a state of their own under a king. 7 Other 
birds love to look out, each one for his own interest, avoiding 
a systematic rule, and, when captured, long 'to quit a 
slavery' 8 that is disdainful to them! 



Chapter 15 

(50) Let us begin, then, with those birds which have 
become examples for our own way of life. These birds have 
a natural social and military organization, whereas with us 
this service is compulsory and servile. How well do the 
cranes carry out their guard duty at night without orders 
and without compulsion ! You may note the watchers at their 
appointed places. Again, while the rest of the flock is at 
rest, some make the rounds and make certain that no attack 
is attempted from any quarter. With unabated vigilance they 
render complete protection. When the watcher has com- 
pleted his period for guard duty, he prepares for sleep, after 
arousing with a warning cry the sleeper who is destined to 

6 Ibid. 6.646. 

7 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 4.212. 

8 Virgil, Eclogues 1.41. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 201 

take his place as the next sentry. The latter willingly accepts 
his lot. He does not act as is the custom with us when, under 
such circumstances, we are loath to give up our sleep. 
Rather, he rises eagerly from his resting place, performs his 
duty, and repays with equal care and courtesy the favors 
that he has received. Hence there are no deserters, because 
their loyalty is a natural one. Hence their guard duty fur- 
nishes real protection, because their wills are free. 

(51 ) They also follow this procedure when in flight. In this 
way they alleviate fatigue as they perform in turn the func- 
tion of leadership. At a certain prescribed time one takes, a 
position ahead of the rest, in advance of the banners, so to 
speak. Later, he turns back and yields to a successor the task 
of leading the flock. What is nobler than this, wherein toil 
and preferment is open to all, where power is not the privi- 
lege of the few, but is distributed in voluntary fashion equally 
among all? 

(52) This was the functional process of the primitive 
community. It resembled the constitution of a free state. From 
the beginning men began in this manner to establish a poli- 
tical system based on nature, with the birds as models. Thus 
there was equal participation in both labor and office. Each 
individual in his turn learned to set up a division of respon- 
sibilities, to take his share in doing service and in supervising 
it. Thus no one was devoid of office and no one was without 
his allotment of work. 1 

Here was an ideal state where no one became accustomed 
to unbroken power. Again, no one was intimidated by a long 
period of servitude, because advancement, due to inter- 
change of office and to the fitting measure of its duration, 
appeared all the more supportable in that it resulted in 
establishing that each one would have a share in the task of 
government. No one ventured to exact servitude of another 

1 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 4.149-196 (bees) . 



202 SAINT AMBROSE 

when the latter in his term of office could retaliate with 
frowns of scorn. Toil was not heavy when the thought of a 
dignified office in the future could bring comforting relief. 

But when the lust for domination began to arrogate to 
itself powers that were acquired, and when this same lust 
encouraged unwillingness to relinquish powers that were as- 
sumed, when military service began to take on the character 
of servitude rather than of a right shared by all, when men 
were more eager to seize power than to follow due process 
of law to attain it when this became a fact, then the per- 
formance of hard tasks was regarded as a burden and what 
was not undertaken voluntarily left the way open for displays 
of negligence. How unwillingly do men submit to be assigned 
to guard duty, how difficult it is to induce anyone to accept 
a perilous post in camp, when the vigil is imposed by the 
command of a king! Penalties are set for neglect of duty. 
Yet, indifference often asserts itself and the sentries fail to 
be vigilant. That necessity which imposes obedience on the 
unwilling is often accompanied by a loathing, for nothing is 
so easy as not to seem difficult to one who acts unwillingly. 
Therefore, unbroken toil repels good will. Continuous and 
prolonged power breeds arrogance. Where can you find a 
man who of his own volition lays down his imperial office, 
gives up the insignia of his leadership, and willingly moves 
from the first position to take his place among the last? 2 
Not only do we struggle to reach first place, we are often 
concerned even about a position of modest import. We lay 
claim to the first position at a banquet and, moreover, we 
desire that what has once been assigned to us should be ours 
in perpetuity. 

On the other hand, the cranes carry out their activities 
with equanimity and perform their official duties with humil- 
ity. They are instructed to take up in their turn the post of 

2 Cf. Mark 9.34. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 203 

watch. No admonishment is necessary that they lay down 
their powers. In the former situation the tranquillity of 
natural sleep has to be broken; in the latter, an occasion 
presents itself to show their pleasure in the performance of 
a voluntary act of service. 



Chapter 16 

(53) It is related that storks proceed in orderly array in 
the direction in which they propose to advance and that in 
many places in the East they form ranks together as if they 
were soldiers marching under the command of an officer. 
You could well believe that you were witnessing an army 
going forward with banners displayed such is the pageant 
of military precision which they show. They are under the 
leadership and direction of crows who accompany them, pro- 
viding a stout escort and auxiliary force against any attack- 
ing army of birds. They undertake at their own risk cam- 
paigns that are planned by others. A proof of this is de- 
duced from the fact that these crows are not found to stay 
any length of .time in these regions. Moreover, when they 
return, they are covered with wounds. Clear evidence of 
their having undergone a severe and bitter conflict may be 
gathered from what may be termed their cries of blood and 
from other indications. Who, then, has set forth for them 
the penalty for desertion? Who has laid down the laws of 
severe punishment for deriliction of military duty? The fact 
is, no one attempts to steal away from the lines of these 
friendly escorting troops. On the contrary, each one strives to 
outdo his companions in carrying out his allotted task. 

(54) Let men learn to preserve the rights of hospitality 
arid from the example of birds realize what reverence is due 
and what courtesies accorded to one's guests courtesies 



204 SAINT AMBROSE 

which expose crows even to danger. Whereas birds offer even 
their own lives for strangers, we close our doors to them. 
We ban from our doors those birds who at the risk of peril 
to themselves serve as escort to others. Whereas the storks 
consider these as their defenders, we frequently treat them as 
enemies. 

I may be in error, but this may have been the reason why 
the people of Sodom suffered punishment or why the fury 
of the Egyptians, when they attempted war on the people 
who had been their guests, brought its penalty for their lack 
of hospitality when the waters overwhelmed that perfidious 
race. 

(55) We should dwell on the fact that while the gentle- 
ness of human beings is equal to the loyalty and wisdom of 
this bird [the stork], none of us have effectively imitated the 
virtues of irrational creatures, not even when an example 
has been set before our eyes. In fact, the offspring, gathering 
around the body of their 'father sick unto death,* 1 cherish 
with the movement of their wings the limbs of their parent, 
now, because of his advanced age, bereft of his plumage and 
deprived c of the oarage of his pinions.' 2 Furthermore 
need I add the offspring offer a contribution of food, 
wherewith loss of natural strength is repaired, so that, lifting 
by the leverage of their wings their aged parent, they make 
him fit for flight and restore to strength their dear father's 
limbs, now unaccustomed to perform their primary functions. 

Who is there among us who is not loath to lift up the 
burden of his ailing father? Who would place his 'wearied 
sire' on his own shoulders 3 a fact which is scarely credible 
when related in history? Who would not rather, to fulfil his 
duty, hand this out over to servants? The birds do not 
refuse to provide food for their parents. This duty many men 

1 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 12.395. 

2 A Virgilian phrase. 

3 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 2.596,707,708. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 205 

have refused to do even under compulsion of necessity and 
when driven by fear of punishment, Birds, on the other 
hand, are bound by a natural and not by a written code of 
laws. 4 By no ordinances, but rather by the prescriptions of 
natural grace, they carry unashamedly the body of a revered 
and aged parent. This act of carrying one's parent is, in fact, 
an expression of piety. Popular belief has borne witness to it 
to the extent that it has acquired, as is fitting, a merited 
fame. The Romans are accustomed to call this bird 'pious' 
a title which these birds have without exception merited has 
been bestowed by decree of the Senate on scarcely a single 
emperor. These birds have been accorded this designation 
by a decree of their own elders, for it is right that sons be 
first declared 'pious 3 by virtue of what their fathers believed. 
They also have the approval of all mankind, for 'thank- 
fulness 5 is called dvTiTTAdcpyr|ai(; 5 a word derived from 
ireXocpyoc;, which means a stork. Such is the derivation of 
the word denoting this virtue. A repayment for kindness is 
associated with the name of the stork. 



Chapter 17 

(56) We have an example of devotion to parents on the 
part of a bird's progeny. Let us now listen to an impressive 
instance of a mother's solicitude for her children. The 
swallow has a very small body, but gives evidence of ex- 
tremely great affection and devotion. Although devoid of all 
goods, she constructs her nest as cunningly as if it were a 
thing 'more precious than gold.' 1 What wiser act is there 
for a bird given to wandering than that she should avail 

4 Cf. Cicero, Pro Milone 4.10. 
1 Prov. 16.16. 



206 SAINT AMBROSE 

herself of her liberty and build for her little ones homes near 
the abodes of men, where no one would attack her brood? 
It is a commendable act to cause her nestlings from their very 
birth to become accustomed to human society and thus make 
them safer from the snares of their bird enemies. Notable, 
too, is the admirable way she, like a skilled artisan, builds her 
home without a helper. She gathers twigs in her beak and 
dips them in the mire so as to fasten them together. Because 
she is unable to lift the mire with her feet, she sprinkles the 
tops of her wings with waters so that what before was dry 
dust now becomes mud. In this way twigs and straw are 
collected and made compact. Thus is the entire nest built. 
The nestlings find no obstacles as they busy themselves on 
the smooth surface within their little house. At the same 
time, no intruder can damage the structure by planting his 
feet in an opening. The young ones, too, are not affected 
by draughts of cold air. 

(57) This industrious activity is common to many birds. 
The extraordinary characteristics just mentioned show the 
high regard they have for paternal affection and are an in- 
dication of a far-seeing and instinctive knowledge. These 
birds give evidence of possessing a medical skill. If any of the 
nestlings suffers blindness as a result of an injury to an eye, 
its eyes are restored to their former effectiveness by the 
application of certain curative agents. 

Let no one, therefore, complain of poverty because he has 
not provided money for his household. The swallow, who 
lacks money, is poorer but is rich in industry. She builds and 
spends not. She erects a shelter without depriving a neighbor 
of anything. She experiences no compulsion to harm anyone, 
either because of indigence or poverty. She does not resign 
herself to despair when at times her offspring becomes help- 
less. We on the other hand, are affected by poverty and are 
made anxious by the urgency of want. Indigence drives 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 207 

many to evil deeds and offenses. In the pursuit of gain we 
turn our minds to deceit and, while fitting our sentiments 
to the occasion, we set our hopes in the most violent displays 
of passion. In the process our minds snap. We lie prone, 
bereft of spirit and life at a time when it would have been 
more satisfactory, since the protection of man has failed us, 
to place our hopes in the benevolence of God. 



Chapter 18 

(58) Men should learn to love their children. We find 
this to be a normal sentiment among crows, who form a 
constant escort to their offspring in flight. Solicitous, too, 
lest perchance they may become weak because of their tender 
age, they strive to supply them with food. They continue to 
perform this function for a long time. On the other hand, 
the females of our species quickly give up nursing even those 
they love or, if they belong to the wealthier class, disdain 
the act of nursing. Those who are very poor expose their 
infants and refuse to lay claim to them when they are dis- 
covered. Even the wealthy, in order that their inheritance 
may not be divided among several, deny in the very womb 
their own progeny. By the use of parricidal mixtures they 
snuff out the fruit of their wombs in the genital organs them- 
selves. In this way life is taken away before it is given. 

Who except man himself has taught us ways of repudiat- 
ing children? Who has discovered such cruel parental cus- 
toms? Who, notwithstanding the fact that nature imposes 
equality among brothers, has casued them to be unequal? 
One has a superabundance from his father's legacy. The 
other bewails the fact that he has been given but a miserable 
portion of his father's rich patrimony. Can we say that 
nature has thus apportioned the deserts of these sons? On 



208 SAINT AMBROSE 

everyone she has bestowed on an equal basis the possibility 
of possessing wherewith to be born and wherewith to live. 
She can teach you not to discriminate in inheritance those 
whom you made equal by right of consanguinity. It stands 
to reason that those to whom you have granted the right to 
be born in the same manner should not themselves be be- 
grudged to have that in common which by nature they have 
inherited, 

(59) Hawks are said to show harshness toward their own 
offspring. They eject them from their nests when they notice 
their first attempts at flight. If they still linger, they are 
immediately pushed headlong by their parents, who beat 
them with their wings and compel them to perform the fear- 
ful action. At no time after that do they perform their 
office of giving sustenance to their young. Yet why should 
we wonder that birds accustomed to plunder find it dis- 
tasteful to nourish their progeny? Let us keep in mind the 
fact that fear schools birds also to be cautious, never to 
relax their watchful care, but to anticipate and avoid 
dangers from birds of prey. Hence, since nature has inured 
these birds to a life of plunder, they appear to prepare their 
young from an early age to acts of pillage rather than just 
cut short the period of sustenance. Precaution is taken lest they 
become flabby in that early period, or become weak through 
pampering, or lest they languish in idleness. They are trained 
to search for food rather than expect it, so that they may not 
lose their innate vigor. Those activities are allowed to elapse 
which are connected with the nourishing of the young, who 
as a result of this are forced to resort to a life of pillage. 

(60) It is generally stated in treatises dealing with the 
eagle that she, too, abandons her young. This is true, how- 
ever, only of one out of two nestlings. Some have thought 
this situation arose from a reluctance to bring up a twin 
brood. But this is hardly worthy of credence, especially since 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 209 

Moses has given us such convincing testimony on the de- 
votion of this bird to her young when he said : 'As the eagle 
protects his nest and inspires trust in his nestlings: hovering 
over them, he spreads his wings and hath taken them and 
carried them on his shoulders. The Lord alone led them. 51 
How, then, did he spread his wings over his young if he 
killed one of them? 

For this reason I think that this bird does not act cruelly 
from a desire to refrain from giving nourishment. Rather, 
there is a question of making a decision. For it is agreed that 
the eagle tests the quality of her young, lest signs of de- 
generacy and deformity may cause deterioration in a species 
which affects the role of regal dominion over all birds. 
And so it is asserted that the eagle exposes her nestlings to 
the rays of the sun and suspends with her claws her young in 
mid-air. If one of them stays unruffled and unmoved, fear- 
lessly facing the light of the sun as it strikes his eyes, he is 
approved. He has thus demonstrated the truth of nature 
by the steadiness of his unaffected gaze. The one, however, 
who turns away his eyes, 'dazzled by the sun's rays,' 2 is 
rejected. He is deemed unworthy of such a parent, unfitted 
to be recognized as genuine offspring, and hence undeserving 
of support. The eagle does not therefore reject her young 
because of natural cruelty. This is, rather, the result of her 
soundness of judgment. There is no refusal of what is 
native, but rather a rejection of what is alien. 

(61) What some consider to be a disposition toward 
cruelty in such a royal bird is compensated by the kindly 
traits of a bird of lower caste. This bird, known as the water- 
fowl (the Greek name is <pvr|) 3 adopts the nestling of the 
eagle when disowned or not recognized and allows him to 
mingle with her own brood. She exercises over him the same 

1 Deut. 32.11. 

2 Cicero, De senectute 12.42. 



210 SAINT AMBROSE 

maternal care as she does over her own, providing food 
and nourishment impartially. The <pvr), therefore, supports 
an alien brood, whereas we show excessive cruelty when we 
abandon our own children. Rather, she does not acknowl- 
edge them to be such, but considers them to be base-born. 
Our procedure is worse. We renounce what we acknowledge 
to be our own. 

Chapter 19 

(62) Let us come now to the turtle dove, chosen as a 
chaste victim by the Law of God. Hence, when the Lord 
was circumcised, the dove was offered, because it is written 
in the Law that there should be a presentation of *a pair of 
turtles or two young pigeons/ 1 For this is the true sacrifice 
of Christ: chastity of body and grace of the spirit. Chastity 
belongs to the turtle dove; grace, to the pigeon. It is related 
that the turtle dove, when widowed by the loss of her con- 
sort, was 'utterly weary of the bridal-bed 3 and even of the 
world itself, for the reason that 'her first love, turning traitor, 
cheated her by death,' 2 He was regarded as unfaithful from 
the point of view of perpetuity and as dour in respect to 
beauty in that he had created more pain as a result of his 
death than sweetness from his love. Therefore, she renounces 
any other marriage alliance and does not break the laws of 
chastity or her pledges to her beloved, reserving for him 
alone her love, for him alone cherishing the name of wife. 
Learn, women, how great are the joys of that widowhood 
which even birds are said to observe. 

( 63 ) Who has given these laws to the turtle dove? A search 
for a human law-giver will not bring results. No one has 
ventured to propound laws for these birds. Not even Paul 

1 Luke 2.24; Lev, 12.8. 

2 Virgil, Aeneid 4.17,18 (Dido) . 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 211 

has succeeded in doing so in the question as to whether a 
widow should remarry or not. He says: 'I desire therefore 
that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule their 
households and give the adversary no occcasion for abusing 
us. 3 And elsewhere: 'It is good for them if they so remain. 
But if they do not have the self-control, let them marry, for 
it is better to marry than to burn.' 3 Paul wishes that women 
should do that which is customary with the turtle doves. Also, 
he exhorts the younger widows to marry because our women 
are unable to maintain the chaste life of these birds. God 
has therefore infused into the turtle dove this sentiment for 
the virtuous practice of continency. He alone has the power 
to prescribe the laws which all are obliged to follow. The 
turtle dove is not inflamed by the flower of youth, is not 
tempted by occasional enticements, and cannot break her 
first pledge, because she knows how to preserve the chastity 
she promised at the time of her first marriage. 



Chapter 20 

(64) We have spoken of widowhood as it appears in the 
life of birds. We have shown how this virtue first arose 
among them. Now let us discuss the virtue of continency 
a virtue which birds are said also to possess. This virtue can 
be found even among vultures. It is said that vultures 'do 
not indulge in conjugal embraces' or in any sort of union 
or nuptial tie. They are said to conceive without contact with 
the male seed and that without the union of sexes they gen- 
erate offspring that live to a ripe old age. In fact, it is as- 
serted that they live as long as a hundred years and that by 
no means does 'the limit of a natural span of life await them.' 1 

3 1 Tim. 5.14; 1 Cor. 7.8. 

1 Virgil, Georgia 4.198, 206 (bees) . 



212 SAINT AMBROSE 

(65) What do those people say who usually ridicule our 
mysteries when they hear that a virgin gave birth to a child 
people who consider that parturition is impossible to one 
who never had any relations with a man? Is that to be 
thought impossible for the Mother of God which is admitted 
to be possible in the case of vultures? A bird gives birth with- 
out contact with a male. No one has cast any doubt on that. 
But because Mary, though unwedded, brought forth a child, 
they raise doubts about her chastity. Do not our observations 
show that the Lord has provided many precedents in the 
realm of nature by which to prove the glory of His own. 
Incarnation and assert its veracity? 



Chapter 21 

(66) Now I shall proceed to show what birds usually 
live under the control of laws in a sort of commonwealth- 
From this is derived the fact that the state establishes laws 
bearing equally on all citizens laws which are loyally- 
observed by all members of the community. No claim is 
made to a right which is clearly not permitted to all the 
citizens. Rather, each and every member of the group shares 
equally in these rights. What is not permitted to every 
citizen is not considered a right. All share in paying respects 
to their elders, by whose wise counsel the state is governed. 
Each one has a right to the common place of abode. Social 
duties are shared. They all follow a single prescribed and 
orderly mode of life. 

(67) These facts are of great importance. In the case of 
bees they are even more important. Alone of all species of 
living creatures they share their offspring in common. All 
have the same abode and are confined within the limits of 



SIX BAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 213 

one native land. They engage in the same labor. They share 
the same food and partake of the same activities. The same 
productivity is shared and what could be more notable 
the same flight on the wing. The act of generation is com- 
mon to all. Their bodies are uncontaminated in the common 
act of parturition, since they have no part in conjugal 
embraces. They do not unnerve their bodies in love nor are 
they torn by the travail of childbirth. A mighty swarm of 
young suddenly appears. They gather their offspring in their 
mouths from the surface of leaves and from sweet herbs. 1 

(68) They appoint a king for themselves and establish 
their own community. Though they serve under a king, they 
are free. They have the privilege of selection and of extend- 
ing their loyal devotion. They love him as one elected by 
them and they pay him honor by producing a swarming hive. 

The king is not chosen by lot, because there is in a lot, 
not an element of discrimination, but one of chance. By 
virtue of the unpredictable nature of a lot, it frequently 
happens that what comes last is preferred to what is better. 
The election is not brought about by the vulgar shouts of an 
uninformed mob which does not hold in esteem the merits 
due to virtue. The mob scrutinizes, not the benefits to be 
bestowed by what is serviceable for all, but is swayed by the 
incertitude of change. This election, moreover, is not founded 
on hereditary privilege or in dynastic succession, since cir- 
cumspection and wisdom cannot exist in one who is so in- 
experienced in public life. Add to this the flatteries and 
the inordinate pleasures which, imbibed at an early age, 
are apt to weaken men of the best natural endowments. 
Then, again, we note the custom of employing eunuchs; 
most of them tend to sway the king more for their own 
profit than for the public good. 

1 Virgil, Georgics 4.197-201. 



214 SAINT AMBROSE 

There are notable and natural characteristics in the king 
as he appears among the bees. He must be, for example, 
outstanding in size and beauty. Besides that, he must possess 
what is a conspicuous trait in a king gentleness in character. 
He does not make use of his sting to inflict punishment. 
There are well-defined laws in nature, not set down in 
writing, but impressed in the mold of custom, by virtue 
of which those who possess the greatest power tend to be 
more lenient in the exercise of it. Those bees who do not 
obey the laws of their king are so overcome by remorse that 
they even kill themselves by their own stings! 

This custom is observed today by the Persians. They in- 
flict death on themselves in punishment for a transgression. 
But no people neither the Persians whose subjects live 
under the severest laws nor the Indians or Sarmatians 
hold their kings in such high esteem as do the bees. 2 So true 
is this that they dare not leave their abodes nor go in search 
of food except when the king takes the initiative by assuming 
for himself primacy in flight. 

(69) They fly over the countryside with its fragrant 
gardens and sweetly smelling flowers, where a brook steals 
through banks of lush grass. There the young bees find 
occasion for spirited sport. There, too, they perform their 
martial exercises and find relaxation from labors. Their 
toil is sweet. From the flowers and the plants they erect the 
foundations for their camps. What is the honeycomb but a 
sort of camp? Hence 'they drive the drones from these folds.' 
Does not the square-shaped form of a camp compare 
favorably for beauty of construction with the art of the 
honeycomb in which tiny rounded cells are interlocked? 
What architect taught them how to arrange symmetrically 
the walls of these separate cells, how to hang aloft c within 

2 Ibid. 4.210-212. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 215 

the confines of their homes' delicate pieces of wax to staff 
all this with honey and 'swell with nectar, 3 as it were, their 
granaries interwoven with flowers? 3 

You can perceive them all engaged in their tasks. Some 
keep guard over the food supply. Others keep anxious watch 
on the camp. Others are on the alert for possible rainstorms 
and cloudbursts. Some fashion the wax obtained from 
flowers, while still others gather in their mouths the dew that 
settles on these same flowers. Yet no one lays snares to pilfer 
the fruits of another's labors or aims 'to live by plunder.' 4 
Would that they did not fear the cunning stratagems of 
thieves! However, they still can resort to their stings and, 
if they should be aroused, infuse poison into the honey. 
In the heat of attack 'they lay down their lives in the 
wound.' 5 

And so into the recesses of their camp abodes the moisture 
of the dew is poured. This in the course of time is gradually 
transformed into honey. What before was liquid takes on 
the sweetness of honey as a result of the infusion of wax 
together with the aroma of flowers. 

(70) Scripture rightly commends the bee as a good 
worker: 'Behold the bee., see how busy she is, how admirable 
in her industry, the results of whose labors are serviceable to 
kings and commoners and are sought after by all men.' 6 
Do you hear what the Prophet says? He enjoins on you to 
follow the example of that tiny bee and to imitate her work. 
You see how pleasing it is and what labor it entails. Her 
fruit is desired and sought aftef by all men. Its recipients 
do not differ in character. It supplies without distinction the 
same sweetness to kings and to commoners. It contributes 
not to our pleasures alone, but to our health as well. It 

3 This enitire section reflects numerous passages of Georgics 4,19-169. 

4 Virgil, Aeneid 7.749; 9.613. 

5 Virgil, Georgics 4.238. 

6 Cf. Prov, 6.8 (on the ant) . 



216 SAINT AMBROSE 

soothes our throats and ministers to our wounds. Even to 
our organic ills it serves as a healing draught. Thus the bee, 
though weak in body, manifests her strength in the vigor 
of her wisdom and in her high regard for virtuous deeds. 

(71) The bees fight, in fact, to their utmost in defense 
of their king. They consider it a noble act to give up their 
lives for his sake. While the king is safe, they stand by him 
with the greatest devotion. When he is lost, their enthusiasm 
for their work declines. They destroy their store of honey, 
because death has come to the prime mover of their enter- 
prise. 7 

(72) Although other winged creatures scarcely bring forth 
offspring once a year, the bee is blessed with two such 
periods, surpassing to such a degree all other [such] creatures 
in fecundity, 8 

Chapter 22 

(73) Let us now examine the sense of the words, 'Let 
the waters abound with life and above the earth let winged 
creatures fly below the firmament of the heavens.' 1 

It is clear that 'above the earth' is said because they 
search for their food on the earth. But why, 'below the firma- 
ment'? Eagles fly above all other birds, yet they do not 
fly 'below the firmament of the heavens.' The word for 
'heaven' in Greek is oOpocvoq, derived from the Greek word 
'to see,' for the reason that the air is clear and transparent 
and so living species are said to fly through the air. One 
should not be disturbed by the phrase 'below the firmament 
of the heavens.' The word 'firmament' is used, not in its 
proper, but in its derivative sense. The air which we perceive 

7 Cf, Virgil, Georgics 4.212-214. 

8 Ibid. 4.231. 



1 Gen. 1.20. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 217 

with our eyes is, in comparison with that ethereal substance, 
the firmament, of greater thickness and density. 

(74) Now, having discussed just briefly the nature and 
beauty of flying creatures (we do not have time to describe 
every creature of the same or similar species), let us con- 
sider what diversity there is among birds themselves. 

We find that the crow has talons which are divided and 
separated, whereas nature has formed that part differently 
in the raven, even in her young. Those birds that feed on 
flesh have hooked talons, to enable them to seize their prey. 
Those that are accustomed to swimming have feet which are 
broad, with their parts bound and joined together by a kind 
of membrane. Here we find examples of admirable design 
in nature. In one case, flight or the acquisition of food is made 
easier. In the other, assistance is given in the art of swim- 
ming, whereby this act, too, is made easier. They use their 
feet as oars in ,such a manner that a current of water is 
propelled by the broad formation of the membrane attached 
to their feet. 

( 75 ) We can easily comprehend why a swan has a rather 
long neck. With a body that is somewhat corpulent, the 
swan cannot easily reach the lowest depths in search for 
food. Hence, the neck acts as a sort of advance scout for the 
rest of the body when on the lookout for food in the deep 
waters. This long neck has the additional advantage of giving 
a sweeter and more modulated tone to the swan's cry, which 
becomes clearer the .more frequently it is exercised. 

(76) How sweet is the chant from the tiny throat of a 
cicada! In the heat of midsummer 'they rend the thickets' 2 
with their songs. The greater the heat at midday, the more 
musical become their songs, because the purer the air they 
breathe at that time, the clearer does the song resound. 

2 Virgil, Georgics 3.328. 



218 SAINT AMBROSE 

The bees, too, have a song that is not unpleasant. In that 
hoarse voice of theirs is an agreeable sweetness which we 
appear to have first imitated 'in the broken trumpet-blasts.' 3 
There is no sound more fitting than this to arouse hearts to 
vigorous action. Yet they have this curious gift, although 
they are said not to possess the function of breathing through 
lungs, but to breathe in the air as food. Hence they die 
immediately if oil is poured over them, because they are un- 
able to take in that breath of air when their pores are 
closed. If one were straightway to pour vinegar over them, 
they quickly revive, since vinegar has the power of quickly 
opening those pores which had been sealed by the mass of oil. 



Chapter 23 

(77) Now that we are discussing flying creatures, it may 
not be amiss to treat here what is Deported by certain eye- 
witnesses about the Indian worm. It is related that this 
horned worm is first changed into the form of a plant stalk, 1 
then gradually into a chrysalis. This form is not retained, 
for it seems to take on wings when seen on the wide surface 
of a leaf. From these leaves the Chinese 'comb those soft 
fleeces' 2 which the wealthy appropriate for their own use. 
Hence the Lord says: 'What did you go out to the desert to 
see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold, those who 
wear soft garments are in the houses of kings.' 3 

The chameleon is said also to assume new forms by a 
deceptive change of color. We know, in fact, from close 

3 ibid. 4.72. 

1 St. Basil in his Commentary on Gen. 184D has the correct information 
here (caterpillar) . 

2 Virgil, Georgia 2.121. 

3 Matt. 11.7,8. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: FIVE 219 

observation that hares take on a white color in winter and 
that in .summer they return to their original shade, 

(78) These matters have been mentioned in order that 
you may be aroused by the force of such examples as these 
to a belief in the change which will be ours at the Resur- 
rection. We refer to that change which the Apostle 
clearly indicates when he says: 'We shall all indeed rise, 
but we shall not all be changed,' And further on he says: 
'And the dead shall rise incorruptible and we shall be 
changed. For this corruptible body must put on incorruption 
and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 Many, 
interpreting the nature and appearance of that transfor- 
mation which they have not attained, are not without giving 
it an incongruous explanation, based on an anticipation 
which they do not merit. 

(79) In the regions of Arabia there is reported to be a 
bird called the phoenix. 5 This bird is said to reach the ripe 
old ,age of 500 years. When the phoenix realizes that he is 
coming to the end of his life, he builds himself a casket of 
incense, myrrh, and other aromatic plants, into which he 
enters and dies when his time has come. From the moisture 
proceeding from his flesh he comes to life again. In the course 
of time this bird puts on 'the oarage of his wings' 6 until he 
is restored to his primitive form and appearance. By the 
very act of his resurrection the phoenix furnishes us a lesson 
by setting before us the very emblems of our own resurrection 
without the aid of precedent or of reason. We accept the 
fact that birds exist for the sake of man. The contrary is 
not true: that man exists for the sake of birds. We have 
rjere an example of the loving care which the Author and 

4 I Cor. 15.51-53. 

5 The phoenix was considered as an example from nature of the cer- 
tainty of our resurrection; see Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the 
Corinthians 25. 

6 A Virgilian phrase. 



220 SAINT AMBROSE 

Creator of the birds has for His own saints. 7 These He does 
not allow to perish, just as He does not permit in the case 
of one sole bird when He willed that the phoenix should 
rise again, born of his own seed. Who, then, announces 
to him the day of his death, so that he makes for himself 
a casket, fills it with goodly aromas, and then enters it to die 
there where pleasant perfumes succeed in crowding out the 
foul odor of death? 

(80) You, too, man, should avail yourself of a casket: 
'strip off the old man with his deeds and put on the new.' 8 
Your casket, your sheath, is Christ who protects and con- 
ceals you in the day of evil Do you wish to be convinced that 
it is a casket of protection? 'In my quiver he hath hidden 
me,' 9 Scripture declares. The casket, then, is your faith. 
Fill it with the goodly aroma of your virtues, that is, of 
chastity, compassion, and justice, and immerse yourself 
wholly in the inmost mysteries of faith, which are fragrant 
with the sweet odors of your significant deeds. May your 
exit from this life find you clothed with that faith, so that 
'your bones may be made fat' and *be like a watered garden,' 10 
thus coming to life and flourishing. Be aware, therefore, 
of the day of your death, as the Apostle Paul realized when 
he said: *I have fought the good fight, I have finished the 
course, I have kept the faith. There is laid up for me a crown 
of justice, 311 Like the good phoenix, he entered his casket, 
filling it with the sweet aroma of martyrdom. 

(81) I shall put this question before you: Why are 
vultures able by certain indications to foretell a man's 
death? Whence have they derived their knowledge? When 
two armies face each other in battle array to engage in 

7 Ci Ps. 15.10; Acts 13.35. 

8 Col. 3.9,10. 

9 Isa. 49.2. 

10 Prov. 15.30; Isa. 58.11. 

11 2 Tim. 4.7,8. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 221 

'tearful war, 512 these particular birds follow in formation as 
a sign that a great number of men are destined to fall a prey 
to vultures. At any rate, they seem to make this observation 
by the exercise of an instinct analogous to human reasoning, 

(82) Divine grace has penetrated even into the life of a 
locust. When a locust swarms over and takes possession of 
some extent of land, no harm at first is done to the land. 
Nothing is devoured by these unfriendly invaders except 
when a sign from heaven has been received. A passage in 
Exodus provides an example of this. 13 There the locust as 
minister of divine vengeance inflicts punishment for an 
offense against heaven. 

(83) This animal is devoured in turn by a bird called 
oeXeuKLc; this is its Greek name given to us as a remedy 
for the ills that the locust usually inflict. The Creator has 
given this bird an insatiable appetite wherewith the all- 
devouring plague, to which we have just referred, can be 
utterly destroyed. 

Chapter 24 

(84) But what is this that has happened? While we are 
prolonging our discourse, see how the birds of night flit 
around us! They admonish us by that very act to put an 
end ,to our discourse and at the same time give us a hint that 
they, too, should be included. Birds of different species all 
fly back to their accustomed nesting places. The coming of 
evening compels them to give way to night. Accordingly, 
they conceal themselves in their hiding places, saluting the 
close of day with a song, lest they depart without offering 
such thanks as a creature owes to glorify his Creator. 

12 Virgil, Aeneid 7.604. 

13 ExotL 10,12-15. 



222 SAINT AMBROSE 

(85) Night also has its songs wherewith to soothe the 
hearts of men who lie awake. The night owl, too, makes a 
contribution of song. .What shall I say of the nightingale 
who keeps long watch over her nest, cherishing her eggs 
with the warmth of her body? She solaces with the sweetness 
of her song the sleepless labors of a long night. 1 The highest 
aim of the nightingale, in my opinion, is to give life to her 
eggs by the sweet charm of her song no less than by the 
fostering warmth of her body. A woman, humble but chaste, 2 
imitates this bird when she uses her arms to work 'the in- 
dented millstone,' 3 that her little ones may not lack bread 
for their sustenance. By her evening song she comforts her- 
self amid the distressing realities of her poverty. In her love 
and attentiveness she follows the nightingale's pattern, al- 
though she fails to match the sweetness of the song. 

(86) The night owl is insensible of the horrors accompany- 
ing the gloom of night because of the large yellow pupils 
of his eyes. Contrary to the experience of other birds the 
darker the night, the freer the flight of the owl. However, 
when dawn with its bursts of light appears, his eyes are 
dazzled and he flees aimlessly as if in darkness. The owl 
provides us with a lesson that some there are who, although 
they have eyes to see, yet are unable to use them. 4 They 
exercise the function of sight solely in times of obscurity. 

I speak of the eyes of the mind which the wise in this 
world have and see not. 5 They discern nothing in the light. 
They walk in obscurity, groping in the darkness of the 
demon powers, while they are convinced that they are 
looking at the heights of heaven. They trace with a rod' the 

1 Ci Virgil, Georgics 1.293. 

2 Cl Virgil, Aeneid 8.409413. 

3 Virgil, Georgics 1.274. 

4 Cf. Matt. 13.13. 

5 Cf. Eph. 1.18. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 223 

universe, 6 taking the measure of the air itself. Nevertheless, 
they become more and more involved in the darkness of 
eternal sightlessness. Beside them are the daylight of Christ 
and the light of the Church, and they see them not. They 
open their mouths as if in possession of all knowledge. To 
subjects of little value their minds are acute, but to the 
eternal verities they are blind. In the prolixities of prolonged 
disputation they reveal the obscurity of their own knowl- 
edge. Therefore, while they flit around in subtle discourse, 
they act like the night owl by vanishing at the approach of 
the light of day. 

(87) The bat is an ignoble creature, whose name is taken 
from the word for evening. 7 They are equipped with wings, 
but at the $ame time they are quadrupeds. They are pro- 
vided with teeth, in this respect differing generally from 
other birds. As a quadruped, too, the female brings forth 
her young alive and not in the oval stage. Bats fly in the air 
like birds but prefer to be shrouded in the dusk of evening. 
In flight they do not use the support of wings but rely on 
their webbed feet which serve as wings, both as a balance 
and as a means of propulsion. These common creatures have 
this faculty, too, of adhering one to another, assuming any 
position like a pendant bunch of grapes, so that, if the lowest 
in place gives way they all fall apart. Here we see the virtue 
of love in action a virtue difficult to find among men here 
below. 

(88) The cock's crow is pleasant at nightfall. It is not 
only pleasant, but useful, too. As a good domesticated fowl 
he arouses the sleeper, gives him warning when he is per- 
turbed, and consoles the voyager by asserting in musical 

6 Virgil, Aeneid 6.850. 

7 The etymology here is verpertilio ('bat') from vesper ('evening') . 

8 Cf. Hymnica Ambrosiana 1 (Aeterne rerum conditor) ; cf. O. J. Kuhn- 
muench, Early Christian Latin Poets (Chicago 1929) 116; A. S, 
Walpole, Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge 1922) 27-34. 



224 SAINT AMBROSE 

tones that night is approaching. 8 When the cock crows, the 
thief forsakes his schemes and the star of dawn rises to 
illumine the sky. When the cock crows, the sailor's gloom and 
trepidation disappear. Tempests and storms stirred up by 
gusts of wind at eveningtide subside. At his crowing the 
devout of heart bestir themselves for prayer and resume their 
reading. Finally, on this occasion 'the rock of the Church' 9 
washed away his sin which he had committed before the 
cock crowed. At cock-crow hope returns to all, the sick find 
comfort, the wounded find relief, the feverish are calmed, the 
lapsed return to the faith. Jesus has regard for those who 
stumble and corrects the errant. Hence He paid heed to 
Peter and forthwith the sin departed. Peter revoked his 
denial and his confession was completed. 10 That this was 
God's plan and not a mere accident is revealed in the words 
of the Lord. It is written that Jesus said to Simon: 'Before 
the cock crows, thou wilt deny me three times.' 11 

In daytime Peter is quite brave, but is disturbed at night- 
fall. Before cock-crow he falls three times so that you may 
realize that his sin was not due to mere thoughtlessness, but 
to an emotional disturbance. The same man became braver 
after the cock crowed. He became worthy of Christ's regard, 
for 'the eyes of the Lord are upon the just.' 12 He realized 
that remedial action had come, following which he was 
unable <to sin. He turned aside from the ways of error to 
those of virtue and wept bitterly. 13 He washed away his 
sins with his tears. 

(89) Have regard, Lord Jesus, for us, also, that we may 
acknowledge our errors, efface our faults with tears of devo- 
tion and merit indulgence for our sins. And so we have 

9 Peter; Matt. 16.18. 

10 Cf. Luke 22.61,62. 

11 Matt. 26.34. 

12 Ps. 33.16. 

13 Matt, 26.75, 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : FIVE 225 

purposely prolonged our discussion in order that the cock 
may come also to us as we speak. Wherefore, if any error 
has obtruded itself in our speech, we pray that Christ forgive 
our sin. Grant us the tears of Peter. Deliver us from the 
sinner's exultation. 

The Hebrews wept and were liberated when the waters 
of the sea divided. Pharao was glad because he had sur- 
rounded the Hebrews, but he was swallowed up in the sea 
along with his people. Judas, too, rejoiced in the price of 
betrayal, but by reason of the same price c he hanged himself 
with a halter. 514 Peter wept for his sins and deserved to be 
able to forgive the sins of others. 

(90) But now it is fitting time 15 that this discourse be 
brought to an end a time for silence or for tears, a time ia 
which is celebrated the forgiveness of sins. For us, too, in 
our holy rites that mystical cock crows, as the cock of Peter 
did in our discourse. May Peter, who wept so well for him- 
self, weep also for us and may the benign countenance of 
Christ turn toward us. Let there come upon us the Passion 
of the Lord Jesus which daily forgives us our sins and effects 
the office of remission. 

(91) The good Lord does not desire to send you away 
fasting lest some faint on the way. He said: *I have com- 
passion on the crowd for they have now been with me three 
days and have nothing to eat and I am unwilling to send 
them away fasting lest they faint on the way' 16 Mary took 
note of these words on the occasion when she declined to 
make preparations for a meal. 17 We, too, should realize the 
fact that those who live on the word of God 18 are not 
numerous and that refreshment for the body is what is more 

14 Matt. 26.14; 27.5. 

15 Holy Thursday. 

16 Matt. 15.32. 

17 Cf. Luke 10.39,40. 

18 Cf. Matt. 4.4. 



226 SAINT AMBROSE 

generally desired. In fact, more exacting than the triduum 
(which we have celebrated) is that which we propose for 
the day that approaches. 

(92) And so, now that we have enjoyed ourselves with 
birds and have crowed with the cock, let us sing the mysteries 
of the Lord. Let the eagles/ 9 when they have been re- 
juvenated, 20 gather by the body of Jesus, for now the mighty 
whale has really restored Jonas to us. 21 Let us congratulate 
ourselves that evening has come. The morning shall become 
the sixth day! 22 

19 Cf. Luke 17,37; Matt. 24.28. 

20 Cf. Ps. 102.5. 

21 Jonas 2.11. 

22 Cf. Gen. 1.31. 



BOOK VI : THE SIXTH DAY 

THE NINTH HOMILY 
Chapter 1 




\ HIS is THE SIXTH DAY^ which brings to a close the 
account of the origin of created things and at the 
same time terminates the discourse which we have 
undertaken on the genesis of matter. 1 This day calls for even 
greater expenditure of toil, because we have reached a critical 
point: the culmination of the whole debate. We must realize 
that during the preliminary stages of contests in music, song, 
or sport, however numerous and important they may be, there 
is no award of a wreath of victory. This presentation of a 
wreath for victory is assigned to the last day. On that occasion 
the expectant decision is reached, together with the shame 
or the reward which either defeat or victory brings. In such 
a mighty contest of wisdom as this in which every man, not 
just a few, acts as judge, how much more is there occasion 
for anxiety lest we fritter away the toils of the preceding days 
and suffer mortification in the present. The praetor does not 
face the same conditions as the singer or the athlete. In the 

1 Cf, Lucretius 2.31,383 (exordia rerum) . 

227 



228 SAINT AMBROSE 

latter case there is a sporting chance of misadventure, 2 in the 
former, an error may have serious results. If, in one instance, 
you make an error the spectators are censorious; in the other, 
the audience. 

(2) Stand by me, therefore, as judges of the prize of vic- 
tory. Enter with me into this mighty and wonderful theater of 
the whole visible creation. Not slight is the service rendered 
to strangers by one who watches for their arrival with the 
intent to conduct them on a tour around the city and to point 
out to them the more notable monuments. How much more 
ought you to welcome one who, as I do, conducts you in 
this assembly by the guiding hand of my discourse through 
your own native land and who points out to you each and 
every species and genus, with the desire to show you from 
all these examples how the Creator of the universe has con- 
ferred more abundant benefits on you than on all the rest 
of His creatures. It is for you, therefore, that the wreath is 
designed. It is my wish, with your express consent, to award 
to you today the crown of victory. We do not demand merely 
the garlands that athletes win which are destined at length 
to fade, but the lasting judgment of your probity, by which 
you are able to discern the truth that Divine Providence per- 
meates all creatures. While you share with the rest of creatures 
your corporeal weakness, you possess above and beyond all 
other creatures a faculty of the soul which in itself has nothing 
in common with the rest of created things. 



Chapter 2 

(3) Now let us turn our discussion to the origin of beasts 
and to the generation of men. I already hear some who 
murmur and say: how much time are we to spend discussing 

2 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 5.328-330. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 229 

matters alien to us, while knowing nothing of what really 
concerns us? How long are we to learn of other living creatures 
while we do not know ourselves? Let him tell me what is 
to be for my benefit, that I may know myself. That is a just 
complaint. The order which Scripture laid down must, how- 
ever, be retained. We cannot fully know ourselves without 
first knowing the nature of all living creatures. 

(4) 'Let the earth,' says Scripture, 'bring forth all kinds 
of living creatures, quadrupeds and crawling creatures and 
beasts of the earth and cattle and all manner of reptiles ac- 
cording to their kind. And God made -the beasts of the earth 
and every kind of cattle and every kind of creature that crawls 
on the ground. And God saw that it was good and God said: 
let us make man. 31 I am not unaware of the fact that certain 
men treat of the race of beasts and cattle and crawling crea- 
tures as symbolical of the heinousness of sin, the stupidity of 
sinners, and the wickedness of their designs. I adhere, how- 
ever, to the belief that each and every species is uncom- 
pounded by nature. 

(5)1 am not afraid that someone may in his mind compare 
me to a presumptious but poor host who, in his eagerness 
to be kind, invites many people to dinner. He sets before 
them nothing but the most common and ordinary food, so 
that he provokes criticism from his guests for the meanness 
of his service instead of being the recipient of gratitude for 
his generosity. 

The friends of Eliseus did not accuse him of being a poor 
host when he placed wild herbs before them. 2 There exists 
that luxurious and delicately prepared banquet, hardly worthy 
of our notice, in which pheasants and a species of turtle are 
placed on the table, while chicken is actually what is served. 
A chicken is offered, stuffed with oysters or shell-fish. Wine 

1 Gen.. 1.20-24. 

2 4 Kings 4.39-43. 



230 SAINT AMBROSE 

is drunk which from its bouquet seems to be of one kind, but 
from its taste seems to be of another. Food derived from the 
sea is stuffed with products of the land and those of the land 
with what is derived from the sea. We call into question in 
this way the providence of the Creator who has granted all 
these things for our sustenance without, however, mingling 
them one with another. At first sight, such a mixture seems 
pleasing. Afterward, it turns out to be bitter, for the more 
luxurious is our mode of living, the more ruinous and intem- 
perate it becomes. Eliseus served bitter herbs which afterwards 
became sweet. Hence, those who thought that the food was 
of a deadly nature found it later to be sweet and life-giving. 

(6) Again, there is no occasion for concern that I might 
have invited more people than I can possibly provide with 
food and that the bread of my discourse may not be sufficient 
for you all. We cannot attain to the perfection of faith exem- 
plified in the case of Eliseus, who was not disturbed by the 
small amount of bread in his possession. It was his wish and 
intention to distribute it among all in sufficient amount. Ac- 
cordingly, he instructed his servant to divide among the 
people the ten barley loaves. And his servant said: 'How 
much is this to set before a hundred men?' Eliseus replied: 
'Give that they may eat for thus said the Lord; they shall eat 
and there shall be left/ 3 And I do not fear that your situation 
may make you ravenous. You have had your fill, yet you are 
returning home both hungry and empty, for it is written: 
The Lord strengthened the just and in the days of famine 
they shall be filled.' 4 

To be unashamed to offer loaves of barley and to give what 
you have rather than to withhold hospitality is a much more 
commendable act. While he gave to the people in abundance, 
Eliseus left nothing for himself. Eliseus, therefore, was not 

3 Ibid. 

4 Ps. 36.17,19. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 231 

ashamed to serve barley bread, whereas we find it shameful 
to have understanding of simple created things, which are 
called by their simple and customary names. When we read 
of 'heaven/ we should understand this to mean what it says. 
When we read of 'earth,' we should understand the fruit- 
bearing earth. 

(7) What concern has the measurement of the circum- 
ference of the earth for me? Geometers estimate it to be 180 
stadia. I gladly admit that I do not know that of which I am 
ignorant or, rather, that I am aware knowledge of this sort 
would not be of profit to me. Better than knowledge about 
the extent of the earth is knowledge about the concrete things 
in it. How can we grasp the dimensions of that which is sur- 
rounded by a sea, which is broken up by regions inhabited by 
barbarans, and by the many areas where the soil is marshy 
and impossible to traverse? 

Scripture points out what is impossible for men, for God 
declares: 'Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of 
his hand and weighed the heavens with his palm and the 
bulk of the earth in his hand? Who hath weighed the moun- 
tains in scales and the rocks and the groves in a balance?* 
And further on: c Who sitteth upon the globe of the earth, 
and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts, who stretcheth 
out the heavens as an arch?' 5 Who, then, ventures to put his 
knowledge in the same plane with that of God? Does man 
presume to offer that in the way of knowledge what God has 
sealed with his own oracular and majestic pronouncements? 

(8) Surely, Moses was skilled in all the wisdom of the 
Egyptians. Yet he welcomed the Spirit of God. As His min- 
ister he preferred the way of truth to that vain and self-styled 
philosophical system. He laid down for us what he considered 
suited to our hopes, namely, that God made the earth, that 
the earth, produced plant life and all kinds of animal life 

5 Isa. 40.12,22. 



232 SAINT AMBROSE 

at the command of almighty God and by the operation of 
the Lord Jesus. 

But he did not think that he should discuss how much 
atmospheric space is occupied by the shadow of the earth, 
when the sun recedes from us and takes away the light of 
day that illuminates the lower regions of the world. He did 
not discuss how the lunar orb is brought into eclipse in this 
part of the world, since in his account these phenomena were 
passed over as of no significance to us. Moses saw that there 
was no place in the words of the Holy Spirit for the vanity of 
this perishable knowledge which deceives and deludes us in 
our attempt to explain the unexplainable. He believed that 
only those things should be recorded which tend to our sal- 
vation. 

Chapter 3 

(9) Let us keep close to the meaning of the prophetical 
words. Let us not hold in disdain as unworthy of our consid- 
eration the language of the Holy Spirit, who says: 'Let the 
earth bring forth alive cattle, beasts and crawling creatures.' 
What is the need of further argument, since it is evident that 
the natural origin of terrestrial creatures is in question? The 
Word of God permeates every creature in the constitution 
of the world. Hence, as God had ordained, all kinds of living 
creatures were quickly produced from the earth. In com- 
pliance with a fixed law they all succeed each other from age 
to age according to their aspect and kind. The lion generates 
a lion; the tiger, a tiger; the ox, an ox; the swan, a swan; and 
the eagle, an eagle. What was once enjoined became in nature 
a habit for all time. Hence the earth has not ceased to offer 
the homage of her service. The original species of living crea- 
tures is reproduced for future ages by successive generations 
of its kind. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 233 

(10) Do you wish to turn the creatures that have been 
generated to the profit of man? You will all the more ac- 
commodate creatures to man's pleasure if you will not deny 
to all creatures what is appropriate to their natures. In the 
first place, nature has designed that every species of cattle, 
beast, and fish has its belly extended, so that some crawl on 
their stomachs. You may observe that even those animals that 
need the support of legs are, by reason of their four-footed 
motion, part and parcel of the earth and thus lack freedom 
of action. They have, in fact, no ability to stand erect. They 
therefore seek their sustenance in the earth, solely pursuing 
the pleasures of the stomach toward which they incline. 

Take care not to be bent over like cattle. See that you do 
not incline not so much physically as they do, but morally. 
Have regard for the conformation of your body and assume 
in accordance with it the appearance of loftiness and strength. 
Leave to animals the sole privilege of feeding in a prone 
position. Why, contrary to your nature, do you bend over 
unduly in the act of eating? Why do you find delight in what 
is a violation of nature? Why do you feed on the things of 
the earth like cattle, intent on food both day and night? 
Why do you dishonor yourself by surrendering to the allure- 
ments of the body, a slave to the whims of appetite? Why 
do you deprive yourself of the intelligence with which the 
Creator has endowed you? Why do you put yourself on the 
level of the beasts? To dissociate yourself from these was the 
will of God, when He said: 'Do not become like the horse 
and the mule who have no understanding. 51 

If the voracity and intemperance of the horse and his 
whinny of pleasure directed toward the mare give you delight, 
you should also find pleasure 'with bit and bridle to bind 
fast your jaws/ 2 If you revel in ferocity, the dominant trait of 

1 Ps. 31.9. 

2 Ibid. 



234 SAINT AMBROSE 

savage beasts for which reason they are slain, see that you, 
too, may not become a victim of your own atrocious cruelty. 

(11) The donkey is a slothful and stupid animal, an easy 
prey to all mischance. What is the lesson that this animal 
conveys? Is it not that we should become more alert and not 
grow dull from physical and mental inactivity? Why not, 
rather, take refuge in a faith which tends to lighten our 
heavy burdens? 

(12) The wily fox hides away in pits and caves. Is not 
this proof that the animal has no purpose? Because of his habit 
of plundering he deserves our hatred and warrants our aver- 
sion for his total lack of caution while laying snares for his 
victims. 

(13) The partridge is cunning in that she steals the eggs 
of another partridge and fosters them with her own body. 
But she is unable to profit from this, because she loses the 
brood as soon as she has hatched it. When these hear the 
voice of the partridge who has laid the eggs, they leave their 
adopted nest and, following a natural instinct, go to her whom 
they recognize as their true and natural mother. In this way 
they indicate that the function of a nurse is totally different 
from that of a mother. Thus, she performs her own proper 
labors in vain and pays the penalty of her own deceit. Hence 
Jeremias says: 'The partridge uttered a cry and gathered 
what she did not lay,' 3 that is, she gathered the eggs and gave 
forth a cry as if rejoicing at the effect of her own deceit. But 
she spends her labor in vain. Her prolonged period of brood- 
ing benefits another and not herself. 

The Devil imitates this bird in his endeavor to lay claim 
to the generations of the eternal Creator. If he succeeds in 
bringing together a group lacking in wisdom and devoid of 
sound sense, he allures them with corporeal enticements. As 
soon as the voice of Christ reaches the hearts of the little 

3 Jer. 17,11. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 235 

ones, they depart and take themselves to their mother, who 
embraces her young with an endearing mother's love. 4 The 
Devil did not create the Gentiles, but he gathered them in. 
When Christ in His Gospel sent forth His message, they 
eagerly fled so as to be under the protection of the shadow 
of His wings. He consigned them to the fostering care of 
Mother Church. 5 

(14) The lion, proud in the fierceness of his nature, will 
not brook mingling with other wild animals. Like a king, he 
disdains association with them. He scorns the food of the 
previous day. He turns away even from the fragmentary re- 
mains of his meal. What wild beast would venture to associate 
with him whose roar of itself inspires such terror that many 
animals who could outrun him will quail on hearing it, as if 
struck dumb by some strange force. 

(15) Scripture is also not silent about the nature of the 
leopard. By the varied character of his coat he betrays the 
variety of his emotions. Jeremias says: 'If the Ethiopean 
can change his skin or the leopard his spots. 36 This is not 
said merely of what is external. It refers, also, to changes in 
the fierce nature of the animal. The Jewish people, whose 
characters were spoiled because of the gloomy and uneasy 
fluctuations of their hearts and minds, could not attain the 
grace of good purpose. Once they had acquired the fierce 
character of a wild beast, they were unable to return to a 
better and improved mode of life. 

Chapter 4 

(16) There is in the nature of quadrupeds something which 
the language of the prophetical books exhorts us to imitate. 

4 Cf. Matt. 23.37. 

5 Cl Ps. 16.8. 

6 Ter. 13.23. 



'236 SAINT AMBROSE 

We should follow their example and avoid slothfulness. Neither 
because of size nor bodily weakness should we desist from our 
eagerness to carry into effect the lofty aims of a virtuous life. 

The ant is a tiny animal, yet she ventures to achieve things 
beyond her strength. She is not driven to labor as a slave is. 
Rather, without compulsion and with freedom of foresight, 
she lays up provision for a future day. Scripture admonishes 
us to imitate the industry of the ant: 'Go to the ant, thou 
sluggard, and consider her ways and be wiser than she,' 1 She 
has no land under cultivation. Yet, without a taskmaster to 
urge her on as she looks after her stock of food, what a harvest 
has she in store for herself a harvest gathered from the results 
of your labors! While you may frequently be in need, she 
wants for nothing. There are no granaries closed to the ant, 
no guards impassable, no stores of grain untouchable! The 
guard sees and dares not prohibit the theft. The owner gazes 
on his loss and exacts no punishment ! Over the plain moves 
the dark column. The paths are aglow with the concourse of 
voyagers and particles of grain which cannot be seized by their 
narrow jaws are heaved along by their shoulders ! 2 The owner 
of the crop beholds all this and blushes to refuse such trifles 
to cooperative industry such as this ! 

(17) What shall I say about dogs who have a natural 
instinct to show gratitude and to serve as watchful guardians 
of their masters' safety? Hence Scripture cries out to the un- 
grateful, the slothful, and the craven: 'Dumb dogs, not able 
to bark.' 3 To dogs, therefore, is given the ability to bark in 
defense of their masters and their homes. Thus you should 
learn to use your voice for the sake of Christ, when ravening 
wolves attack His sheepfold. Have the word ready on your 
lips, lest, like a silent watch-dog, you may appear because of 

1 Prov. 6.6, 

2 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 4.402-407. 

3 Isa. 56.10. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 237 

your unfaithfulness to abandon the post entrusted to you. 
Such a dog was the friend and companion of an angel. Not 
without reason did Raphael in the prophetic book cause this 
dog to accompany the son of Tobias when he went on a jour- 
ney, in order to drive out Asmodeus and thereby confirm the 
marriage. The demon is driven out as the result of a grateful 
recognition and the union is stabilized. 4 

And so, under the symbolism of a dumb animal, the angel 
Raphael, as director of the young man Tobias whom he had 
agreed to protect, was able to arouse sentiments of gratitude 
in him. Who would not feel shame if he did not return thanks 
to those who are well deserving of it, when he sees that even 
beasts shun the sin of ingratitude? These animals hold in 
grateful memory the sustenance they have acquired. Are you 
not mindful of the salvation you have received? 

(18) Although 'a bear lies in wait,' as Scripture says 5 
for she is a wild beast full of deceit when she finds her young 
at the moment of birth to be formless, she immediately pro- 
ceeds to lick them with her tongue until they become like her 
in form and shape. Do you not marvel that a wild animal 
should show such devotion with her tongue, an animal whose 
inherent nature is manifested by love for her young? The bear, 
therefore, forms her young into the likeness of herself. Are 
you not competent to train your sons, so that they, too, may 
become like yourselves? 

(19) What shall we say about the bear and the art of 
medicine? She knows, in fact, how to heal herself when suffer- 
ing from the effects of a serious wound. She lies under a plant 
called by the Greeks c flomus y * and touches it with her open 
sores, which are thereby healed. 

Serpents, too, are able to rid themselves of blindness by 

4 Cf. Tob. 6.1; 3.8; 8.3; 11.8. 

5 Lam. 3.10. 

6 Mullein. 



238 SAINT AMBROSE 

eating the fennel plant. Accordingly, when they feel their 
eyesight becoming weaker, they search for their familiar 
remedy and are not disappointed in its results. 

When tortoises, after eating the entrails of a serpent, feel 
the poison circulating through their bodies, they have recourse 
to a plant called marjoram in an effort to find a cure. Even 
when they lie concealed in their lairs in the marshes, they 
instinctively seek for a curative antidote. By this assured cure 
they attest that they know the efficacy of plants. You may 
observe that foxes, too, heal themselves with resin from a pine 
tree. By making use of such a remedy they postpone the time 
of imminent death. 

(20) The Lord gave utterance to these words in the book 
of Jeremias : The turtle and the swallow and the sparrows of 
the field observed the time of their coming, but my people have 
not known the judgments of the Lord, 57 Swallows know the 
time of their coming and of their return. These dutiful birds 
know how to announce the signs of spring by the testimony 
of their arrival. 

Ants also keep watch for the coming of sunny weather. 
When they notice that their store of food remains soggy be- 
cause of rain storms, a careful exploration is made of atmos- 
pheric conditions to determine when a series of warm days 
should arrive. Then they release the food supply, which is 
carried out of their hiding places to be dried by prolonged 
exposure to the sun. For that reason you will never experience 
stormy weather during that whole period of time, except 
when it should, in the interval, happen that the ants have 
changed their minds and decided to restore their supply of 
food to their granaries. 

Sheep, at the approach of winter, browse on grass with an 
appetite that is insatiable. They have a presentiment of the 
coming of inclement weather. For this reason they proceed to 

7 Jer. 8.9. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 239 

fill themselves to satiety before vegetation dies from the effects 
of bitter frost. 

Hedgehogs, commonly called iricei, on sensing the approach 
of danger, 'gather themselves behind their shields' 8 so that 
anyone who has in mind to harm them may be wounded by 
their prickly armor. In anticipation of eventualities, these 
animals are provided with two organs of respiration. For 
example, then they sense the coming of northerly winds, they 
close the aperture open to the north. When they note that 
'the clouds have been cleared away by the south wind,' 9 they 
turn toward the north so as to avoid the harmful breezes com- 
ing from the opposite direction. 

(21) Hence, the Prophet rendered praise worthy of the 
Lord when he said: 'How great are thy works, O Lord. 
Thou hast made all things in wisdom/ 10 The divine wisdom 
penetrates and fills all things. Far more conviction is gained 
form the observation of irrational creatures than from the 
arguments of rational beings. Of more value is the testimony 
given by nature than is the proof presented by doctrine. 
What animal does not know how to look after his own safety 
by offering resistance where force is necessary, by flight or 
by watchfulness where speed or cunning is called for? Who 
has instructed them on the curative powers of herbs? Human 
beings are often deceived by the appearance of herbs. Fre- 
quently, we discover those to be noxious which we had con- 
sidered to be salutary. How often has death crept into repasts 
that were delicious! How frequently has death-dealing food 
penetrated even past the watchers and servants of the palace 
halls to bring death to kings! Wild beasts, merely by the 
sense of smell, are able to discern what is beneficial and what 
is harmful. They feed on the plant without the intervention 

8 Virgil, Aeneid 10.412. 

9 Horace, Odes 1.7.15,16. 
10 Ps. 103.24. 



240 * SAINT AMBROSE 

of lackeys or food-tasters and receive no harm! Nature is a 
better guide and teacher of what is actual and true. She 
inspires into our senses the perception of what is sweet and 
health-giving and needs no director. She, too, instructs us how 
to avoid the bitterness of that which brings ultimate pain. The 
sweetness of life is set against the harshness of death. 

Nature entrusts to the lioness the care of her whelps. 
Maternal affection makes gentle the savagery of the beast. 
Nature checks for the moment the ferocity of the tigress and 
turns her aside as she is on the point of seizing her prey. The 
minute she discovers that her young have been taken, she sets 
out on the track of the despoiler. Although he may have the 
advantage of a fast horse, he is aware that he may be outdone 
in speed by the wild beast. In a situation where there is avail- 
able no means of escape he has to resort to the following 
stratagem. When he perceives that he is being overtaken, he 
lets fall a glass ball. The lioness is deceived by her reflection, 
thinking that she sees there her young. After being retarded 
by the deceitful image, she once more expends all her strength 
in her effort to seize the horseman. Spurred on by rage, she 
comes closer and closer to her fleeing victim. Again he throws 
out the glass ball, thus slowing down his pursuer. Yet her 
remembrance of past deceits does not prevent her from com- 
plying with her maternal instincts. She keeps turning over the 
reflected image that deludes her and settles down on it as if 
to nurse her young. Thus, deceived by her own maternal soli- 
citude, she suffers at once the forfeiture of her vengeance and 
the loss of her offspring. 11 

(22) We have here the message of the Scriptures which 
declares: 'Children, love your fathers; parents, do not provoke 
your children to anger/ 12 Nature has implanted in beasts the 
instinct to love their own brood and hold dear their own 

H Cf. Claudian, De raptu Proserpinae 3.263f. 
12 Col, 2.20,21, 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 241 

progeny. They know nothing of relations-in-law. Here, parents 
do not become estranged from their offspring by the act of 
changing their consorts. They know nothing of preferences 
given to children of a later union to the neglect of those of a 
former marriage. They are conscious of the value of their 
pledges and are unaquainted with distinctions in respect to 
love, to incentives due to hate, and to discriminations in acts 
that involve wrong-doing. Wild creatures have a nature that 
is simple and one which has no concern in the perversion of 
truth. And so the Lord has ordained that those creatures to 
whom He has bestowed a minimum of reason are endowed 
with the maximum of feeling. 

What wild animal would not willingly face death in de- 
fense of her young? What wild beast, although exposed to 
countless armed men advancing { in wedge formation, 513 would 
not protect with her own life's blood her own progeny? With 
her body she sets up a wall of stout defense around her little 
ones, so that they are immune from peril in the midst of 
*a harvest of spears'? 14 What has man to offer he who pays 
no heed to what is enjoined on him and is oblivious to the 
dictates of nature? A son despises his father; a father disin- 
herits his son. An occasion when a man's own progeny is 
condemned to death is regarded as an act of justice. A father 
actually passes judgment on himself by treating his own child 
as something without real substance. An act in which nature is 
punished with sterility is considered to have the sanction of 
authority. 

(23) That dogs are devoid of reason is beyond all doubt. 
Nevertheless, if you consider the keenness of their senses, you 
can well believe that their sagacity of sense perception has 
taken on the trappings of reason. Hence, one can easily per- 
ceive that they are able to understand, by the training given 

13 Virgil, A&neid 12.575. 

14 Ibid. 3.46. 



242 SAINT AMBROSE 

by nature, what it has taken a few individuals a long period of 
time to achieve with the aid of the refinements of syllogistic 
argumentation acquired in the advanced schools of rhetoric, 
When they discover the tracks of a hare or of a stag at a 
point where there is a side path or a crossroad leading in 
several directions, they proceed to make note of the starting 
point of each of these trails. In silence, they weigh the prob- 
lems one with the other. By applying their keenness of scent 
they seem to make the following observation: 'Our quarry 
has gone either in this direction or in that/ they say, 'or surely 
he has fled into this clearing. Yet he has not taken this route 
or that. One direction remains. There is no reason, therefore, 
to doubt that he has taken this route.' What men, with the 
aid of prolonged discussion and meditation, achieve with 
difficulty nature readily supplies to dogs, who weigh first the 
false hypothesis and when that is repudiated finally discover 
what is true. 

Is it not true that philosophers spend whole days setting 
forth problems on sand, tracing with a rod' 15 each proposition 
one by one? Since it must be that of three propositions only 
one is true, these men first eliminate two of these as not in 
conformity with truth. And so they conclude that the essence 
of truth is found in the proposition that remains. 

Who is as mindful of benefits and as grateful for kindness 
as the dog? For their masters' sake they go so far as to leap 
on robbers and to keep off strangers prowling at night. They 
are prepared, too, to die in defense of their masters and even 
to die with them! Dogs have often been the means of con- 
victing people accused of homicide by showing clear evidence 
of the crime committed. Reliance is made in many cases on 
their testimony. 

(24) It is related that in the early morning in a remote 
part of the city of Antioch a man who had a dog as a com- 

35 Ibid. 6,850. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 243 

pardon was found slain. The killer was a certain soldier bent 
on robbery. In the dusk of the morning hours he was able 
to find refuge in another region. The body lay unburied and 
attracted a crowd of bystanders. The dog bewailed with 
mournful cries the loss of his master. It happened that the 
man who committed the murder, in order to assure his inno- 
cence and make himself secure by his presence such is human 
astuteness joined the circle of people and with the air of 
displaying sympathy approached the corpse. At that moment 
the dog relinquished his whine of distress and assumed the 
role of avenger. He attacked him and held him prisoner. Rais- 
ing a pitiful cry after the manner of an epilogue in a speech, 
the dog brought tears in the eyes of everyone present and 
inspired trust in his testimony. This man alone of all the men 
present was seized and held fast. The man thereupon became 
alarmed. He was unable any longer to deny his guilt. Such a 
clear indication of his offense could not be made void by pleas 
of hate, enmity, ill-will, or of injury inflicted. Since he had not 
succeeded in his master's defense, the dog in this case under- 
took a more difficult role, that of avenging him. 

What meritorious act do we do for our Creator, on whose 
bounty we live? We close our eyes to insults against God 
Himself. Often, too, we set before the enemies of God food 
which we have received from His very hands. 

( 25 ) What animal is more innocent than the lamb? We are 
accustomed to make an analogy between lambs and our own 
little children. It often happens that in a large flock a lamb 
decides to wander over the whole sheepf old, roaming in search 
of his mother. When she on her part is unable to find her 
lamb, she attempts to discover his whereabouts by bleating 
frequently. By this means she hopes to cause him to give an 
answering cry whereby he could direct back 'his truant foot- 
steps. 516 Although he has wound his way among thousands of 

16 Virgil, Eclogues 6.58. 



244 SAINT AMBROSE 

sheep, he still recognizes the voice of his parent. He hastens 
to his mother and finds his way to the familiar sources of his 
mother's milk. Notwithstanding the lamb's eager desire for 
milk, he passes by other udders heavy with milk. These udders, 
in fact, may overflow with milk, yet he persists in searching 
for his mother. The depleted store of his mother's udders 
means just full abundance. She, too, can distinguish her off- 
spring among the many thousands of lambs. In outward ap- 
pearance they are the same. One can find no differences in 
the sound of their bleating. The mother picks out her own 
progeny from the rest of the flock. She recognizes her brood 
by the sole testimony of parental love. Whereas the shepherd 
may err in making his selection, the lamb cannot make a 
mistake in recognizing his mother. The shepherd is deceived 
by appearances, but a sheep is guided by natural affection. 
To all appearances, each one has the same odor, yet nature 
provides for them the power of distinguishing a scent which 
their own progeny, by I know not what peculiar potency, 
alone gives forth. 

(26) Nature has her own customs and her own innate in- 
stincts. Scarcely has the infant got his first teeth when he is 
able to test his own arms. The puppy does not yet have his 
teeth, yet in defense he acts as if he had. The deer is not yet 
provided with horns, yet he practices and butts with his head, 
threatening with weapons with which he is not furnished. A 
wolf takes away a man's power of speech by first staring at 
him. The wolf despises this man over whom he is victorious by 
reason of his loss of speech. On the other hand, if a wolf per- 
ceives that he has been seen first, he loses his fierce character 
and is unable to run away. A lion is in dread of a cock, 
especially of one white in color. A she-goat when wounded 
searches for a plant called dittany and by this means rids her- 
self of arrows. Wild animals, too, have instinctive knowledge 
of suitable remedies. A sick lion searches for an ape which, 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 245 

when devoured, restores him to health. To a leopard the 
blood of a wild she-goat serves as an antidote against physical 
weakness. A sick bear devours ants. A deer chews the branches 
of an olive tree. 17 

(27) Wild animals know, therefore, what is beneficial to 
them, whereas you, man, have no knowledge of your remedies. 
You do not know how to snatch power away from your ad- 
versary, so that he, like a wolf taken by surprise, is unable to 
escape. You are unable by the eye of your mind to outwit 
his treacherous designs, to obstruct his flow of speech, and 
dull the edge of his impudent display of rhetoric. If he comes 
on you by surprise, he will deprive you of your power of 
speech. If dumbness comes upon you, loosen your foot-gear in 
order to loosen your tongue. If a wolf should attack you, pick 
up a rock and he turns in flight ! Christ is your rock. If you 
find refuge with Christ, the wolf will take flight and not terrify 
you. This is the rock which Peter, when he hesitated on the 
water, sought for and found, because he held on to the right 
hand of Christ. 18 

(28) Why do I need to mention the fact that men are fond 
of garlic and use as a food a substance which the leopard 
avoids? Hence, as soon as a person gets ready to prepare garlic, 
a leopard, who is unable to tolerate it, is apt to leap forth 
from that region. To think that you use for food and infuse 
into your vitals a substance 19 whose very odor a ferocious 
wild beast cannot endure ! But it serves as medicine for those 
in pain. Let it be used as medicine, then, for invalids and not 
as food for banqueters. You have in mind to procure a drug, 
but you shun fasting as a restorative, as if you could find 
another remedy as efficacious as that ! A serpent suffers death 
after tasting the sputum of a man who is fasting. You see, 

17 Much of this lore is found in Pliny, Historia Katuralis 8 and 10. 

18 Cf. Matt. 14.30,31. 

19 Cf. Horace, Epodes 3.5. 



246 SAINT AMBROSE 

then, what potency there is in fasting, when a man can kill 
a serpent with his own sputum. If this is true of an earthly 
being, how much more true is it of the realm of spirit! 

(29) How great is the wisdom which the Lord has infused 
even into little creatures! The turtle-dove covers her nest with 
onion sprouts to prevent wolves from attacking her fledglings. 
She knows that wolves usually shun these sprouts. The fox 
knows how to protect her own young, whereas you are ignorant 
of the means to do so. Why are you heedless in not making 
provision against the onslaughts of the iniquitous wolves of the 
spirit by providing greater security for the life which will 
follow this? 

Chapter 5 

(30) But let us return to the creation of different species 
and reflect on the reason why the Lord formed some beasts, 
such as lions, tigers, and bears, with shorter necks, whereas 
other animals, such as elephants and camels, were created 
with longer necks. Do we not find clear reason for this in the 
fact that animals which are carnivorous do not need long 
necks? They bend down their necks and jaws to the earth in 
the act of feeding. They use them for waylaying a deer or for 
dismembering an ox or a sheep. On the other hand, the 
camel, a taller animal, would be unable to feed on the smallest 
plants unless in the process of feeding he was able to extend 
his long neck to the ground. Accordingly, to the camel there 
has been allotted a neck that is longer in proportion to his 
stature. This is true, also, in the case of such herbivorous 
animals as the horse and the ox. 

(31) The elephant, too, has a prominent trunk; otherwise 
he would be unable, because of his surpassing size, to reach 
the ground in order to find pasturage. He therefore makes use 
of this trunk in his search for food. Through it this monstrous 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 247 

beast imbibes huge quantities of water. This trunk is hollow 
and capacious. In the effort to satisfy his thirst this huge 
beast empties entire troughs. Thus he inundates himself within 
with rivers of water. In fact, his neck is smaller than the 
massive size of his body demands, so that it may serve a 
useful function and not be an encumbrance. 1 For the same 
reason the animal does not bend his knees. In order that such 
a mighty contrivance be held in balance, there is need that 
his legs be like columns of a more than ordinary rigid char- 
acter. The extremities of his feet are slightly curved, but the 
remaining parts of his legs are rigid throughout from top to 
bottom. Such a huge beast cannot bend his knees as we do. 
Naturally, therefore, he does not share with the rest of 
animals the ability to bend over or lie down. In order that 
without danger to himself he may sway a little in his sleep, 
he is supported on both sides by what may be called huge 
beams, inasmuch as he has no articulated joints in his limbs. 
For elephants that are tame a type of support has been con- 
trived by men who are expert in this work. For the wild and 
untamed there is certainly an element of danger in the fact 
that no provision has been made for such supports. 

(32) Elephants actually make use of trees either for 
scratching their sides or for relaxation in sleep. These trees 
are sometimes bent or broken by the weight of such a body, 
which causes the animals to fall headlong. Being unable to 
raise himself up, he lies there and dies. He may be discovered 
by his cries of pain, as he exposes the softer parts of his body 
to wounds and death. Weapons cannot easily penetrate his 
back and the other harder parts of his body. Hunters in search 
for ivory prepare the following scheme to trap these animals. 
From the trees which the elephant makes use of they cut away 
a small section on the sides opposite those which generally 

1 Cf. Sallust, Bcllum ]ug. 14.4 



248 SAINT AMBROSE 

served his purpose. The trees subjected to this pressure 
cannot sustain the weight of the elephant's limbs and become 
the immediate cause of his downfall. 

(33) To find fault with these facts is like finding fault 
with the height of buildings which often threaten to fall head- 
long and are with difficulty restored. But if we frequently raise 
these aloft for the sake of artistic beauty or to serve as watch- 
towers, we ought to approve of this, too, in the case of ele- 
phantSj because they perform a useful service in time of war. 
The Persians, for example, a race of fierce warriors, are noted 
for their expertness in archery and in similar arts* They ad- 
vance in battle array surrounded by what appear to be mov- 
ing towers, from which they shoot their weapons. When shot 
from a higher position these do more execution against the 
enemy below. In the center of the battlefield the combat seems 
to be concentrated around a rampart, citadel, or watch-tower, 
where the entrenched warriors appear to be spectators of the 
war rather than participants in it. They seem to be so remote 
from danger behind the protective bastion of the beasts. Who 
would venture to approach them, when he could be hit by 
a weapon from above or be annihilated by the onrush of the 
elephants from below? As a result, the battle line with its 
battalions drawn up in wedge formation gives way before 
them. The camping grounds which were laid out in blocks of 
squares have completely vanished. The elephants attack the 
enemy with a force that is irresistible. They cannot be held 
back by any embattled array of soldiers with massed shields. 
They take on the appearance of mountains moving in the 
midst of the battle. Conspicuous with their high crests and 
emitting a loud trumpet sound, they inspire fear in everyone. 
What avail are feet or strength of muscles or manual 
dexterity to those who have to face a moving battlement 
packed with armed men? What use is his steed to the horse- 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 249 

man? Driven by fear at the hugeness of this beast, his horse 
flees in panic! What can the bowman do against such an 
onslaught, although the armored soldier may not be affected 
by a rain of arrows directed from above? Moreover, the 
beasts' hides, even when unprotected, are not easily penetrated 
by a weapon. Protected by this armor, they cut their way 
through and overwhelm the opposing masses of men without 
any risk of danger to themselves. 

( 34 ) As in the case of huge buildings, we see that elephants, 
too, are supported by foundations of unusual strength. Other- 
wise, they would totter in a brief space of time because of 
lack of comparable sustaining power in their extremities. We 
are told nowadays that elephants live 300 years or more a 
fact that corresponds to the hugeness of their bodies. And so 
their limbs are all the more sturdy because they are compact, 
not disjointed as ours are. How frequently it happens that our 
knees and feet cause us suffering, if we have been standing 
a long time or have been running at too high speed or after 
prolonged walking. Limbs that are jointed and articulated are 
more subject to pain than those which are compact and solid. 

(35) And no wonder that elephants, when equipped with 
arms, are an object of fear. Actually, they always present an 
armored front, with their tusks acting as a natural spear! 
Whatever they take hold of they break into pieces with their 
trunks and whatever they trample on they annihilate such 
is the force of their onrush ! To provide themselves with food 
they take possession of whole groves. Like huge dragons they 
involve with their serpentine folds whatever they waylay. 
Often, their trunks take on a circular form when in the act 
of eating or drinking. We have here a proof that nothing 
created is superfluous. Yet this huge beast is subject to us and 
complies with our commands. 



250 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 6 

(36) Inasmuch as we propose to discuss the nature of man, 
it is fitting that, by way of preface, something be said that 
reflects credit on him. 

There appears to be no creature which has more physical 
strength or by its size inspires more terror than an elephant. 
No animals are as fierce as the lion and the tiger. Yet these 
beasts serve the interests of man and as the result of man's 
training lay aside their natural instincts. They forget their 
innate propensities and assume those which are imposed on 
them by command. Why need I say more? They are taught 
as if they were children. They cringe like weaklings and are 
lashed like timid creatures. They are corrected as are those 
subject to us and assume our habits since they have lost their 
own peculiar impulses. 

(37) Wonderful, therefore, is the work of nature in both 
great and little things, for 'wonderful is the Lord on high.' 1 
Just as we admire the level plains no less than we do the 
high moutains, so we marvel no more at the height of the 
cedar than we do at the fruitfulness of the vine or of the 
modest olive tree. In like manner, I admire the elephant for 
his hugeness no less than the mouse for the fact that he 
inspires the same elephant with terror. 

Nature, theiefore, has the power of causing fear in certain 
aspects and of being fearful in others. Each and every creature 
is endowed with certain characteristics which are their special 
mainstay. The elephant is a formidable object to a bull, but 
is fearful of a mouse. The lion, king of beasts, is disturbed 
by the slight sting of a scorpion and dies from the bite of 
poisonous serpent. The lion has extraordinary beauty as he 
shakes his mighty mane and raises his head on high. Yet, who 
does not marvel at the fact that huge bodies are subject to 

1 Ps. 42.4. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 25 1 

death from a scorpion's slight sting so slight as to be without 
substance? 

(38) Let no one impugn the work of the Creator of ser- 
pents. He has, in fact, exposed His creatures to all other kinds 
of poisons, either animal or vegetable. These have come into 
being for our correction, not for our destruction. As a matter 
of fact, that which is an object of terror either to the cowardly, 
the weak, or the godless is a source of usefulness for others. 
A tutor, for example, seems severe, harsh, and unyielding 
toward his charges. He is unsparing with the whip, tames 
their boisterousness, and exacts their obedience. He surrounds 
them with fear, so that he may curb their boyish spirits. As 
a result of this severe treatment they turn out to be virtuous, 
temperate, and restrained, more eager for commendation than 
for sport. Do you not see how these fear-inspiring whippings 
are able to serve a good purpose? 

Thus, serpents act as scourges for those whose pronounced 
character is immature and infantile, whereas no harm can 
come to the robust. The following words were meant for him 
who trusted in the Lord: 'You shall tread upon the asp and 
the viper; you shall trample down the lion and the dragon. 52 
Paul was bitten by a viper. It was believed that he, being a 
sinful man scarce rescued from shipwreck, would soon die of 
poison. Because he shook off the viper from the fire and still 
suffered no harm, the onlookers regarded him with more 
veneration. 3 Addressing all men, the Lord says: 4 'He who 
believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not 
believe shall be condemned.' And He said these signs shall 
attend those who believe: they shall fondle serpents, yet can- 
not suffer harm from these nor from the drinking of any 
deadly thing. A man's lack of faith is more to be feared 

2 PS. 90.13. 

3 Cf. Acts 28.3-6. 

4 Mark 16.16; cf. 17,18. 



252 SAINT AMBROSE 

than poisonous serpents. Have fear of these, therefore, so that 
the occasion of your dread may at least lead you to faith. But, 
if you have no fear of God, then beware of the avenging 
poison of perfidy. 

(39) Now, since you behold both lions and elephants 
subject to you, recall to mind, man, that the saying 'know 
thyself is not something emanating from Pythian Apollo, but 
from Solomon, who says: 'If thou know not thyself, fairest 
among women. 3 Furthermore, long before this time Moses 
wrote in Deuteronomy: 'Keep thyself. 55 The Law says: 'Man, 
keep thyself. 3 And the Prophet says : 'If you know not thyself/ 
To whom does he say these words? He adds: 'Fairest among 
women.' 

What constitutes the beautiful among women if not the 
soul, an outstanding attribute in both sexes? Not without 
reason is the soul comely, since it longs, not for the things of 
earth, but for those of heaven; not for the corruptible, but 
for the incorruptible, the beauty of which is not liable to 
perish. All corporeal things, on the other hand, suffer decay 
either in the march of time or because of the inroads of 
disease. 'Keep thyself, 3 says Moses, in that in which you form 
a totality that in which the better part of you consists. Hence, 
the Lord explained your nature when He said: 'Beware of 
false prophets, 36 for they cause your soul to weaken and your 
mind to totter. Thus, you are not flesh alone. What is flesh 
without the guidance of the soul and the vigor of the mind? 
We put on the garment of flesh today and tomorrow it is 
laid aside. The flesh is temporal, whereas the soul is lasting. 
Like a garment for the body, such is flesh for the soul. You 
are not, therefore, a garment, but one who puts on a garment 
for use. And so you are told to 'strip off the old man with 

5 Cant, 1.7; Deut. 4.9. 

6 Matt. 7.15. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 253 

his deeds and put on the new' 7 you who are renewed not 
in the quality of the body, but in the spirit and affirmation 
of the mind. 

Flesh you are not, I repeat. It is not said of the flesh: Tor 
holy is the temple of God and this temple you are. 3 And 
elsewhere: 'You are the temple of God and the Spirit of 
God dwells in you,' 8 that is to say s in those who have had 
a new birth and in the faithful in whom the Spirit of God 
dwells. It does not dwell among the carnal, for it is written : 
'My spirit shall not remain in these men forever, because they 
are flesh. 39 

Chapter 7 

(40) But let us consider the precise order of our creation: 
'Let us make mankind/ He said, 'in our image and likeness.' 1 

Who says this? Was it not God who made you? What is 
God: flesh or spirit? Surely not flesh, but spirit, which has 
no similarity to flesh. This is material, whereas the spirit is 
incorporeal and invisible. 

To whom does He speak? Surely not to Himself, because 
He does not say: 'I shall make/ but 'let us make. 5 He does 
not speak to the angels, because they are servers, and servants 
cannot have a part in a work along with their Master and 
Creator. He speaks, rather, to the Son, although the Jews are 
unwilling to accept this and the Arians object to it. But let 
the Jews preserve silence and let the Arians with their pro- 
genitors be mute, who, while they exclude One from sharing 
in the divine work, introduce more participants and grant 
to underlings a privilege which they deny to the Son. 

7 Col. 3.9,10. 

8 1 Cor. 3.17,16. 

9 Gen. 6.3. 

1 Gen. 1.26. 



254 SAINT AMBROSE 

(41) But suppose that God appears to you to have need 
of the assistance of servants in His work. If God operates in 
conjunction with the angels, have God and the angels a 
common 'image 3 ? Would He say to the angels: e Let us make 
mankind in our image and likeness'? Listen to the Apostle 
who tells us who is the image of God : ' Who has rescued us 
from the power of darkness and transferred us into the king- 
dom of the Son of His majesty in whom we have our re- 
demption and the redemption of our sins, who is the image 
of the invisible God and the first-born of every creature.' 2 He 
is the image 3 of His Father who always is and was from the 
beginning. Hence it is the 'image' who says: 'Philip, he who 
sees me sees also the Father/ And again, although you behold 
the living 'image 5 of the living Father: 'How canst thou say, 
show us the Father? Dost thou not believe that I am in the 
Father and the Father in me?' 3 

The 'image' of God is virtue, not infirmity. The 'image 5 of 
God is wisdom. The 'image' of God is He alone who has said: 
C I and the Father are one,' 4 thus possessing the likenesss of 
the Father so as to have a unity of divinity and of plenitude. 

When He says 'let us make/ how can there be inequality? 
When, again, He says c to our likeness, 5 where is the dissi- 
militude? So, when He says in the Gospel: 'I and the Father.' 
there is no reference to one sole person. But when He says: 
'We are one,' there is no distinction either in divinity or in 
operation. Both, therefore, do not have one person, but one 
substance. Well did He add: 'We are/ because the divine 
essence is eternal So, then, He whom you would consider un- 
like the Father is co-eternal with Him ! He is eternal of whom 
Moses spoke: 'I AM WHO AM/ 5 Fittingly, too, there preceded 

2 Col. 1.13-15, 

3 John 14.840. 

4 John 10.30. 

5 Exod. 3.14. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 255 

the words: 'I and the Father. 56 If He had mentioned the 
Father first, you would consider the Son to be lesser. But He 
mentioned the Son first, then as it is not fitting that the Son 
be above the Father He added the Father, so that you may 
note that between the Father and Son there is no precedence 
of rank. 

(42) 'Attend to thyself alone/ 7 says Scripture. In fact, we 
must distinguish between 'ourselves/ 'ours/ and 'what sur- 
rounds us. 3 'Ourselves 5 refers to body and soul. 'Ours 5 are the 
members of our bodies and our senses. 'What surrounds us' 
consists of our money, our slaves, and all that belongs to this 
life. 'Attend to thyself,' therefore, 'know thyself,' that is to 
say not what muscular arms you have, not how strong you 
are physically, or how many possessions or power you have. 
Attend, rather, to your soul and mind, whence all our delib- 
erations emanate and to which the profit of your works is 
referred. Here only is the fullness of wisdom, the plenitude 
of piety and justice of which God speaks for all virtue comes 
from God: 'Behold, Jerusalem, I have painted thy walls. 58 
That soul of yours is painted by God, who holds in Himself 
the flashing beauty of virtue and the splendor of piety. That 
soul is well painted in which shines the imprint of divine 
operation. That soul is well painted in which resides the 
splendor of grace and the reflection of its paternal nature. 
Precious is that picture which in its brilliance is in accord 
with that divine reflection. 

Adam before he sinned conformed to this image. But after 
his fall he lost that celestial image and took on one that is 
terrestiaL Let us flee from this image which cannot enter the 
city of God, for it is written: 'In thy city, O Lord, thou shall 

6 John 10.30. 

7 Deut. 4.9. 

8 Isa. 49.16, 

9 Ps. 72-20. 



256 SAINT AMBROSE 

bring their image to nothing.' 9 An unworthy image does not 
enter there; no sooner does it enter than it is excluded, be- 
cause we read: There shall not enter into it anything common 
nor he who practices abomination and falsehood.' 10 He in 
whose forehead is written the name of the Lamb will find 
entrance there. 

(43) Our soul, therefore, is made to the image of God. 
In this is man's entire essence, because without it man is 
nothing but earth and into earth he shall return. 11 Hence, in 
order to convince you that without the soul the flesh is nothing, 
Scripture says: 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body 
but cannot kill the soul/ 12 

Why, then, do you presume in the flesh, you who lose 
nothing when you lose the flesh? Rather, be fearful lest you 
be deprived of the aid of your soul. 'What will a man give in 
exchange for his own soul?' 13 In this is no slight part of him- 
self in fact, it is the substantial part of the entire human 
race. This is the means by which men lord it over other living 
things, wild beasts, and birds. Your soul is made to the image 
of God, whereas your body is related to the beasts. In one 
there is the holy seal of imitation of the divine. In the other 
there is found base association with beasts and wild animals. 



Chapter 8 

(44) But let us define more accurately the meaning of the 
phrase, 'to the image of God.' Is it true that the flesh is 
made to the image of God'? In that case, is there earth in 
God, since flesh is of earth? Is God corporeal, that is to say, 
weak and subject like the flesh to the passions? Perhaps the 

10 Apoc. 21.27. 

11 Cf. Gen. 3.19. 

12 Matt. 10.28. 

13 Matt. 16.26. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 257 

head may seem to you to be made in the likeness of God be- 
cause it stands aloft, or the eyes because they observe, or the 
ears because they hear? As to the question of height, are we 
to consider ourselves to be tall just because we tower a little 
over the earth? Are we not ashamed to be thought of as like 
to God merely because we are taller than serpents or other 
creeping creatures or even than deer, sheep, or wolves? In 
that respect, how much taller are elephants and camels in 
comparison with us! Sight is important to us in order to 
enable us to behold the things of the world and to have knowl- 
edge of what is not reported by any person, but is grasped by 
our sense of sight. How significant, in fact, is this power of 
sight! Because of it we may be said to have the likeness of 
God, who sees all, observes all, comprehends our hidden 
emotions, and searches into the secrets of our hearts! 51 

Am I not ashamed to admit that it is not in my power to 
see parts of my body? What is in front of me I can see, but 
I am unable to see what is behind me. I have no view of 
my neck or of the back of my head and I cannot see my loins. 
In like manner, what avail is our sense of hearing if we 
cannot either see or hear what is only a short distance away? 
If walls should intervene, both sight and hearing are impeded. 
Furthermore, our bodies are fixed and enclosed in a narrow 
space, whereas all wild animals have a wider range and are 
also swifter than men. 

(45) The flesh, therefore, cannot be made to the image 
of God. This is true, however, of our souls, which are free 
to wander far and wide in acts of reflection and of counsel. 
Our souls are able to envisage and reflect on all things. We 
who are now in Italy have in mind what seems to pertain 
to affairs in the East or in the West. We seem to have dealings 
with men who dwell in Persia. We envision those who have 
their homes in Africa, if there happen to be acquaintances of 

1 Cf. Rom. 8.27; 1 Cor. 14.25. 



258 SAINT AMBROSE 

ours who enjoy the hospitality of that land. We accompany 
these people on their departure and draw near to them in 
their voyage abroad. We are one with them in their absence. 
Those who are separated far from us engage us in conver- 
sation. We arouse the dead even to mutual interchange of 
thoughts and embrace them as if they were still living. We 
even go to the point of conferring on these people the usages 
and customs of our daily life. 

That, therefore, is made to the image of God which is 
perceived, not by the power of the body, but by that of the 
mind. It is that power which beholds the absent and em- 
braces in its vision countries beyond the horizon. Its vision 
crosses boundaries and gazes intently on what is hidden. 2 In 
one moment the utmost bounds of the world and its remote 
secret places are under its ken, God is attained and Christ is 
approached. There is a descent into hell, and aloft in the sky 
there is an ascent into heaven. Hear, then, what Scripture 
says: 'But our citizenship is in heaven/ 3 Is not that, therefore, 
in which God is ever-present made to the likeness of God? 
Listen to what the Apostle says in that regard: 'We all, there- 
fore, with faces unveiled, reflecting as in a mirror the glory 
of God, are being transformed into his very image from glory 
to glory, as through the Spirit of the Lord.' 4 

(46) Now that we are convinced that the soul is made to 
the likeness of God, let us take up the question as to whether 
the statement 'let us make man 3 can be said of the soul. 
Give ear to the words of Scripture, where in Genesis the word 
'soul 9 is used for man: 'And the sons of Joseph that were 
born to him in the land of Egypt, two souls. All the souls of 
the house of Jacob that entered into Egypt were seventy/ 5 



2 Cf. Sallust, Bellum ]u& 12.5. 

3 Phil. 3.20. 

4 2 Cor. 3.18. 

5 Gen. 46.27. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 259 

Appropriately enough, the soul is called homo in Latin and 
avGpcoTToq in Greek, the former being derived from 'human- 
ity 5 and the latter from a word associated with the lively faculty 
of 'seeing,' 6 a faculty which has more kinship with the soul 
than with the body. This agrees well with what is said in 
the Lamentations of Jeremias: 'The Lord is good to them 
that support him, to the soul that seeketh him.' 7 He made 
reference to men and thought it necessary to add 'soul. 3 God 
preferably seeks after the soul when it is alone, thus disso- 
ciating Himself from the slime of the body and from the 
cupidity of the flesh. 

The soul, then, is made to the image of God, in form like 
the Lord Jesus, Those men are saints who are conformed to 
the Son of God. So we read in the Apostle Paul: 'Now we 
know that for those who love God all things work together 
unto good, for those who, according to His purpose, are 
saints through his call. For those whom he has foreknown 
he has also predestined to become conformed to the image 
of his Son, that he should be the first-born among many 
brethren. And those whom he has predestined, them has he 
also called and those whom he has called, them he has also 
justified, and those whom he has justified, them he has also 
glorified.' 8 I request a reply to the question: Is justification 
bestowed on you in terms of the body or of the soul? But 
there can be no doubt about the answer, since justice, from 
which justification is derived, is naturally a mental, not a 
physical, quality. 

(47) Man has been depicted by the Lord God, his artist. 
He is fortunate in having a craftsman and a painter of dis- 
tinction. He should not erase that painting, one that is the 
product of truth, not of semblance, a picture, expressed not in 

6 From the supposed connection between ops and the last two sylla- 
bles in anthrojbos. 

7 Lam. 3.25. 

8 Rom. 8.28-30. 



260 SAINT AMBROSE 

mere wax, but in the grace of God. I speak, also, of women. 
They erase that painting by smearing on their complexion a 
color of material whiteness or by applying an artificial rouge. 
The result is a work not of beauty, but of ugliness; not of 
simplicity, but of deceit. It is a temporal creation, a prey to 
perspiration or to rain. It is a snare and a deception which 
displeases the person you aim to please, for he realizes that 
all this is an alien thing and not your own. This is also 
displeasing to your Creator, who sees His own work oblite- 
rated. Tell me, if you were to invite an artist of inferior 
ability to work over a painting of another of superior talent,, 
would not the latter be grieved to see his own work falsified? 
Do not displace the artistic creation of God by one of mere- 
tricious worth, for it is written: 'Shall I take the members 
of Christ and make them members of a harlot?' 9 By no means! 

He commits a serious offense who adulterates the work of 
God. It is a serious charge to suppose that man is to be pre- 
ferred to God as an artist! It is serious, indeed, when God 
has to say this about you: 'I do not recognize My colors or 
My image, not even the countenance which I have made. 
What is not Mine I reject. Take up your abode with him who 
has painted you. Seek your favors from him to whom you 
have given payment.' What will be your reply? 

(48) If it is a serious matter to adulterate the work of 
God, what shall we say of those who slay the work of God, 
who shed human blood and take away the life that God 
has granted? They say: 'Let us take away the just because 
he is useless to us.* 10 Hence we read today in the Gospel: 
The foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests 
wherein to rest; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his 
head.' 11 So the fox hides himself in a den and the birds protect 



9 I Cor, 6.15. 

10 Wisd. 2.12. 

11 Matt. 8.20. 



SIX BAYS OF CREATION : SIX 261 

themselves in their nests. Man, however, does not hide himself 
in a den rather, he is beguiled. The mouth of man is a den, 
and a deep den, too, is the heart of man where injurious and 
deceptive counsels and thoughts of evil reside. 

You make preparations to take a walk while another man 
is setting a trap for you. 'You are going in the midst of 
snares' 12 which your enemies have planted secretly in your 
way. Make careful observations, therefore, so as not to be 
trapped in a net like a deer or in a snare like a bird. The 
deer avoids the net by the keenness of his vision. The bird 
escapes the snares by surveying the territory from a point 
aloft. No one plants his net or conceals his snare up there. 
And so, one whose 'citizenship is in heaven' 13 is not likely to 
be captured like a bird of prey. 

And why do you wonder at man's deception of man when 
the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head? In fact. He 
has purposedly made man to be such that He could find 
therein a place to rest His head. But when our neighbors find 
no repose in our hearts, but traps and snares therein for our 
fellow men, to whom we ought to give help, then Christ 
turns His head away from us this head which He was so 
willing to offer on our behalf even to the point of death! 
Do not expose yourself, therefore, to deceitfulness, cruelty 
and unkindness, so that there may be occasion for Christ to 
rest His head on you. 

(49) Moreover, He did not find rest when He had created 
such irrational creatures as fish and the various species of 
wild beasts. He found rest, however, after He had made man 
to His own image. Give ear to Him as He states on whom 
He finds rest: 'Or on whom shall I rest but on him that is 
humble and gentle and that trembleth at my words?' 14 There- 



12 Eccli. 9.20. 

13 Phil. 3.20. 

14 Isa. 66.2 (Septuagint) . 



262 SAINT AMBROSE 

fore, be humble and gentle, so that God may find rest in your 
affection. 

He % who does not find his rest in the beasts of the field 
will much less find repose in his bestial heart. There exist 
minds of bestial nature and wild beasts, too, in the form of 
men, concerning whom the Lord says: 'Beware of false 
prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly 
are ravening wolves.' 15 God does not find repose in these, 
but in the actions of man whom He has made to His image 
and likeness and who ought not to veil his head, since 'he 
is the image and glory of God/ 16 

To the soul of such a man He says: 'Behold, Jerusalem, I 
have painted thy walls.' 17 He did not say 'I have painted thy 
belly' or 'thy lower parts,' but 'I have painted thy walls,' thus 
proclaiming that the strong protection of walls was granted 
to man. In this way, by keeping careful watch on the walls, 
man can ward off the dangers involved in a siege. He says, 
therefore: C I have given you neither delights nor the allure- 
ments of desire, neither incentives to luxurious living nor 
eagerness to possess another's dignities. You have been granted 
a substantial basis for erecting walls and lofty turrets by 
means of which you can banish fear of an enemy's assault and 
the dread of terrifying raids from legions of soldiers,' 

In fact, you have in Isaias the speech made by the soul of 
a just man or of the Church: 'I am a fortified city, I am a 
city besieged,' 18 defended by Christ and besieged by the 
Devil. But he whom Christ aids ought not to be fearful of a 
siege. He is defended by spiritual grace and is besieged by the 
perils of this world. Hence, also, it is said in the Canticles: 
1 am a wall and my breasts are as a tower/ 19 The wall is the 

15 Matt. 7.15. 

16 1 Cor. 11.7. 

17 Isa, 49.16. 

18 Isa. 27.10; Ps. 50.22. 

19 Cant. 8.10. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 263 

Church and the towers are her priests, who have full power 
to teach both the natural and the moral sciences. 

(50) Be fully aware, O beautiful soul, of the fact that you 
are the image of God. And, man, be aware that you are the 
glory of God. Hear the words of the Prophet on the question 
of glory: 'Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me. 520 That 
is to say, in my work your majesty, O God, has become more 
wonderful; in the counsels of men Your wisdom is exalted. 
When I contemplate myself such as I am known to You in 
my secret thoughts and deepest emotions, the mysteries of 
Your knowledge are disclosed to me. 

Know then, man, your greatness and see to it that you never 
on any occasion become entrapped in the snares of the Devil, 
so as not to fall, perchance, into the jaws of that dread beast 
c who as a roaring lion goes about seeking someone to devour.' 21 
Take heed of what goes into you and what comes out. I do 
not refer to food which is absorbed and ejected, 22 but to 
words and thoughts. Do not allow yourself to be led into 
concupiscence in regard to a neighbor's wife or let your eye 
be captivated by the beauty of a woman who passes by. 
Your mind and your conversation should shun being involved 
in the crafty ways of seduction. Deceit should be far from 
your thoughts and you should not indulge in slander against 
your neighbor. 

God has made you a hunter, not a harrier, for He says: 
'Behold I will send you many hunters' 23 hunters, not of 
crime, but of absolution therefrom; hunters, certainly not of 
sin, but of grace. You are a fisher of Christ, for whom it is 
said: 'Henceforth thou shalt make men live/ 24 Spread your 
nets, direct your eyes, and control your tongue in such a man- 

20 Ps. 138.6. 

21 1 Peter 5.8. 

22 Cf. Matt. 5.11,17-19. 

23 Jer. 16.16. 

24 Luke 5.10. 



264 SAINT AMBROSE 

ner that you destroy no one, but bring rescue to those who 
struggle in the waters. He has declared: 'Let him so stand 
so as to take heed lest he fall 5 and 'So run as to obtain the 
prize. 525 So struggle that you may often discover that the 
crown is awarded only to him who has competed according 
to the rules. 26 

You are a soldier. Then take stock of the enemy, lest at 
night he may creep upon you. You are an athlete. Come to 
grips with your enemy, not with your head, but with your 
arms, lest he strike you in the eye. Let your vision be un- 
obstructed and your offense be cautious so as to parry the 
attack; take advantage of his weaknesses, 'shunning blows on 
the body with watchful eyes' 27 and repelling the assault by 
aggressive action. 

If you should suffer a wound, take heed and run to a 
physician, to seek a remedy in repentance. Take heed, be- 
cause you are made of weak and stumbling flesh. May the 
good physician of souls, the Divine Word, come to your 
assistance. May the oracles of the Lord be to you like health- 
giving medicines. Take heed that no unrighteous word lie 
hidden in your heart, for it creeps through your body like 
poison, bringing with it deadly infection. Take heed, lest you 
forget the God who made you, and do not take His name 
in vain. 

(51) When you have eaten your fill, build a home for 
your habitation, abounding in flocks and in gold and silver, 
together with all that you possess in plentiful abundance. Then 
'take heed that thine heart be lifted up and thou remember 
not the Lord, 528 as the Law states. 

For 'what hast thou that thou hast not received?' 29 Do not 

25 1 Cor. 9.24. 

26 Cf. 2 Tim. 2.5. 

27 Virgil, Aeneid 5.438. 

28 Deut. 8.14. 

29 1 Cor. 4.7. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 265 

these things pass like a shadow? 30 Is not this home of yours 
but dust and desolation? Are not all these things false? Are 
not the treasures of the world mere vanities? Are you not 
yourself just ashes? Look into the sepulchers of men and take 
note that nothing will remain of you but bones and ashes. 
Look inside, I repeat, and tell me who in there is rich and 
who is poor? Distinguish now between the needy and the 
powerful. Naked we come into this world and naked we leave 
it. There are no distinctions discoverable among the bodies 
of the dead, unless, perchance, it may well be that those of 
the wealthy give forth a stronger odor because they were 
bloated with luxurious living. Who ever heard of a poor man 
dying of indigestion? His impoverished condition is beneficial 
to him. He exercises his body and does not overload it. 
*I have not heard of the just man forsaken nor his descendants 
begging bread/ 31 because the man who labors well in his 
own land has a plentiful supply of food. Take heed, therefore, 
man of wealth, because you, like the poor man, bear your 
burden of flesh. 

(52) Because your soul is a priceless thing, poor man, be 
on your guard. The soul is everlasting, although the flesh is 
mortal. Although you may lack money, you are not therefore 
devoid of grace. Although your house is not commodious, 
your possessions are not scattered. The sky is open and the 
expanse of the world is free. The elements have been granted 
to all for their common use. Rich and poor alike enjoy the 
splendid ornaments of the universe. 

Are the paneled ceilings decked with gold 32 in the homes 
of the very wealthy more beautiful than the face of the 
heavens decorated with glistening stars? Are the estates of 
the rich more extensive than the surface of the world? Hence 
it was said of those who join house to house and estate to 

30 CL Eccle. 7.1. 

31 Ps. 36.25. 

32 Cf. Horace, Odes 2.18.1. 



266 SAINT AMBROSE 

estate: 'Shall you alone dwell in the midst of the earth?' 33 
You have actually a larger house, you man of low estate a 
house wherein your call is heard and heeded. O Israel/ said 
the Prophet, 'how great is the house of God and how vast 
is the place of his possession ! It is great and hath no end : it 
is high and immense. 334 The house of God is common to rich 
and poor. However, 'with difficulty will a rich man enter the 
kingdom of heaven. 735 

Perhaps you resent the fact that c the light of golden lamps' 36 
do not shine in your home. But how much more brilliant is 
the suffused light of the moon ! In winter you find a cause 
for complaint that you do not possess a room-heater with its 
'breathing vapors/ 37 But you possess the heat of the sun, 
which tempers the surface of the earth and protects you from 
the cold of winter. Do you really consider those people happy 
'who are attended by a mighty throng' 38 of obsequious ser- 
vants? But those who rely on the feet of others lose by disuse 
the power of using their own. Hence, only a few of the ser- 
vitors act as outriders; most of them are needed as bearers. 

You may gaze in admiration on their abundance of money: 
gold and silver. You see how much they have in abundance, 
but you not see how much they need. To be able to recline 
in litters in ivory is, to your mind, the height of luxury. But 
you do not realize how luxurious a possession is the earth, 
which spreads its couch of grass for the humble man. Here 
are sweet repose and gentle sleep such sleep as the restless 
owner of a golden bed seeks in vain to attain. How much 
happier does he consider you to be as you lie there so peace- 
fully ! So hard is it for him to invite sleep. 

33 Isa. 5.8. 

34 Bar. 3.24,25. 

35 Matt. 19.23. 

36 Virgil, Aeneid L726. 

37 Ibid. 8.421. 

38 Ibid. 4.136. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 267 

Besides, there is, of course, another aspect which is much 
more important. I refer to the fact that the just man who is 
in want here will find abundance yonder and that he who 
has endured toil here will find elsewhere his consolation. 
Moreover, whoever has acquired goods here cannot hope to 
receive there a return for his investment. The poor man 
saves up his interest, whereas the rich man squanders it. 

(53) The poor man and the rich man should therefore 
take heed, because there are temptations for the man of 
poverty as well as for the man of wealth. And so the wise man 
says: 39 'Give me neither beggary nor riches.' He tells you 
how this can be attained. Man has enough when he has a 
sufficiency, because a wealthy man tends to distend his mind 
with cares and anxieties, just as he gorges his stomach with 
rich food. For that reason the wise man prays that he may 
have what is necessary and adequate, saying: Test perhaps 
being filled I should be tempted to deny and say, who sees 
me? Or being compelled by poverty I should steal and for- 
swear the name of the Lord. 9 

Shun and avoid, therefore, the temptations of the world, 
so that the poor may not despair and the rich may not grow 
proud. For it is written, when you have expelled the heathen 
and have begun to make use of their land: 'Lest thou 
shouldst say, my own might and the strength of my own hand 
have achieved all these things for me. 540 Such a one is he 
who ascribes all his success to his own merits, and hence, 
feeling self-assured, does not recognize his own errors which 
drag him with their .extended rope afar. 14 For, if he believes 
that his acquisition of property is due either to mere chance 
or to shrewd cunning, there is no occasion for him to feel 
undue pride in matters to which there is no glory attached, 

39 Prov. 30.8,9. 

40 Deut. 8.17. 

41 Ci Horace, Epistles 1.10.47,48. 



268 SAINT AMBROSE 

or where the labor results in naught, or where there is evi- 
dence of shameless cupidity, which prescribes no limits in its 
pursuit of pleasure. 



Chapter 9 

(54) But something must be said on the subject of the 
human body. Who can deny that it excels all things in grace 
and beauty? Although it seems in substance to be one and 
the same with all earthly things, certain wild animals have 
superiority in strength and size. Yet the form of the human 
body, by reason of its erectness and stature, is such that it 
lacks massive hugeness as well as abject lowliness. Moreover, 
the very appearance of the body is gentle and pleasing with- 
out those extremes of size and of insignificance which might 
lead either to dread or to indifference. 

(55) First, let us make note of the fact that the body of 
man is constructed like the world itself. As the sky is pre- 
eminent over air, earth, and sea, which serve as members 
of the world, so we observe that the head has a position 
above the other members of our body. In the same way, the 
sky stands supreme among the other elements, just as a citadel 
amid the other outposts in a city's defense. In this citadel 
dwells what might be called regal Wisdom, as stated in the 
words of the Prophet: Tlie eyes of a wise man are in his 
head.' 1 That is to say, this position is better protected than 
the others and from it strength and prevision are brought 
to bear on all the rest. 

W T hat avail are the strength and vigor of our muscles or 
the swiftness of our feet without the direction and assistance 
of the head, its commander-in-chief ? From this source comes 

1 Eccle. 2.14. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 269 

real support for all the members or their complete abandon- 
ment. 

To what avail is courage in combat without the aid of the 
eyes? To what avail is flight, if sight be lacking? The body 
as a whole may be likened to a dark and filthy prison unless 
it is illuminated by the visual power of the eye. The eyes 
in man correspond to the sun and moon in the heavens. The 
sun and moon are the 'twin lights of the firmament. 52 Our 
eyes are in our heads like stars which shine aloft and with 
their bright lights illuminate objects below, thus permitting 
us to avoid being involved, as it were, in nocturnal darkness. 
They are our sentries which keep watch day and night. They 
are aroused from slumber quicker than our other members 
and on awakening take stock of everything. They are nearer 
to the brain, the seat of our ability to see. 

In answer to those who think that I have made a too 
hasty descent from the rest of the head in order to praise 
the eyes, I maintain that it is not unfitting to commend in part 
that which is most significant in itself. It is clear that the 
eyes constute a part of the head. And so with the aid of the 
eyes the head examines all things. With the ears it lays bare 
what is secret, obtains knowledge of what is hidden, and 
hears of events that occur in remote lands. 

(56) How gentle and pleasing is the sight of the top of 
the head, how attractive are its locks of hair, an object of 
regard for our elders, of reverence for our priests ! For war- 
riors, how fear-inspiring, for the young, how pleasing can these 
locks be, whether arranged becomingly as in the case of 
women or with the' soft sheen of youth ! Long hair is un- 
becoming to one sex; shorn locks do not become the other. 

One can learn from trees how charming a human head 
can be. In the treetop everything stands for fruit, for beauty. 
The tree's hair-like foliage shields us from rain storms or 

2 Cl Virgil, Georgics 1,5, 



270 SAINT AMBROSE 

protects us from the sun. Take away the tree's leafy locks and 
the tree is wholly devoid of beauty. How precious, therefore, 
is this adornment for the human head ! It protects and invests 
with hair the very center and source of all our senses, the 
brain, so that it may not be unduly affected by cold or heat ! 
Therein is found the primary source of all our feelings. It is 
natural that beauty should be the attribute of that which is 
most sensitive to ill. 

(57) What is man without his head, since the totality of 
man is in his head? When you see a head you recognize a man. 
If the head is lacking, no recognition is possible. He lies an 
ignoble trunk, without honor, 'a nameless corpse.' 3 Men pay 
reverence merely to the heads of princes cast in bronze or to 
their features carved in bronze or marble. 4 

Not without reason, therefore, do the other members pay 
their respects to the head as to their director. They surround 
it like servants bearing a litter and carry it aloft as something 
divine. Hence, it has the power of a censor, whereby directions 
and orders are given to the servants and special instructions 
are relayed to each individual. You have there a picture of 
each man willingly and without pay serving his commander- 
in-chief. Some serve as porters; others take care of the pro- 
visions. Some act as bodyguards; others as orderlies. They 
obey his orders as chief and minister to him as their master. 
Before him there seems to precede what may be termed the 
countersign or standing order, whereby the feet are directed 
to approach a certain region, enjoining what military service 
the hands should initiate and complete, and what disciplinary 
orders should be imposed on the stomach in the way of 
indulgence or abstention from food. 

(58) A forehead free, open and with bare temples, adorns 
the head. According to its appearance one may judge a 

3 Virgil, Aeneid 2.558. 

4 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 6.848. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 271 

person's state of mind, now joyful or sad, now frowning in 
moments of seriousness or smooth in moments of relaxation, 
answering in forensic fashion to one's inmost wish or will. 
Here we have a image of a mind giving, as it were, expres- 
sion to words. Here is a foundation for belief, on which daily 
the name of the Lord is inscribed and preserved. 

A two-fold hedge, the eyebrows, are next in order. These 
serve as a line of defense for the eyes and have a charm to 
lighten a beautiful smile and at the same time are attentive 
to their protective function. If any speck of sand or dirt, 
drops of misty vapor or of streaming sweat should fall down, 
the eyebrow serves to check it, so that no obstruction can 
disturb the delicately formed organs of vision. 5 

(59) Close to these mountain-like eyebrows are arranged 
the eyes, which are made safer by this bulwark of protection. 
From their high position they are enabled to perceive all things 
as if from a loftier stage. A position of less eminence, such as 
that of the ears, mouth, or cavernous nose, would ill befit 
the eyes. Watch towers are always placed on high, so that 
the approach of hostile bands can be detected bands which 
are ready to take by surprise a city in the midst of a cele- 
bration, together with its people and its proud imperial army. 

In this way, too, attacks from robbers may be anticipated, 
if scouts are placed on walls, towers, or on the brows of a 
high mountain. From these points the level regions below can 
be observed where raiding parties can find no hiding place. 
It happens also at sea that, when the nearness of land is 
suspected, a lookout eagerly climbs the topmost mast or the 
high yard arms and announces the sight of a distant land 
still invisible to the rest of the navigators. 

(60) Perhaps you may say that if a watch must neces- 
sarily be placed in a high position, why are not the eyes not 
set in the very top of the head, as in the case of crabs and 

5 Cf. Cicero, De natura deorum 2.143 (on the eyelids) . 



272 SAINT AMBROSE 

beetles who have no apparent head, but whose necks and 
backs are higher than the rest of the body? But these have 
a tough shell, whereas human beings have a tender covering 
of skin which can easily be cut and torn by briers and 
brambles. Moreover, other animals are so constituted that 
they either can guard their eyes by bending their heads toward 
their shoulders, as in the case of horses, oxen, and nearly all 
wild beasts, or turn them, as birds do, toward their wings 
for complete repose and protection. 

It is right that the eyes should be set in the highest part of 
the body in a sort of citadel, there to defend themselves from 
all, even from the slightest attacking force. 6 Here we are 
faced with what appears to be a contradiction. If the eyes 
were placed in a lower position for reasons of safety, they 
would be unable to function; if in a higher, they would be 
exposed to injury. Wherefore, lest anything detract from 
their usefulness or lest any precaution against injury be not 
available, God has placed the eyes in a position where the 
eyebrows above provide no little defense and where the 
cheeks below contribute their mite of protecting embank- 
ment. In addition, the nose offers a covering for the interior 
position, while the exterior seems to be surrounded by a 
bulwark of defense in the protuberant masses of forehead 
and jaw a structure, notwithstanding its connecting joints, 
arranged with due evenness and balance. 

In the midst of these are found the orbs of the eyes. They 
are in a secure position for defense. They are free to make 
observation and, crystal-like, give forth beauty. In their midst 
are the pupils, which are the organs of sight. To provide 
for any possible injury, they are encircled with a rampart 
composed of an orderly arrangement of filaments of hair. 

Hence, in requesting help and safety for himself the 

6 Ibid. 2.140. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 273 

Prophet says: 'Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye.' 7 
He asks for the necessary custody and the protection of Him 
who has deigned to fortify the pupil of the eye with natural 
palisades. Because innocence and purity may be violated by 
the intrusion of a slight speck of dust and thus be deprived 
of the gift of grace, we must for that reason be on our guard 
lest the dust of error may cloud it or that any speck of sin 
cause it pain. It is written : 'First cast out the beam from thy 
own eye and then wilt thou see clearly to cast out the speck 
from thy brother's eye.' 8 

(61) Those skilled in the art of medicine maintain, in 
fact, that the brain is placed in a man's head for the sake of 
the eyes and that the other senses of our bodies are housed 
close together on account of the brain. The brain is the 
source of our nervous system and of all the sensations of 
voluntary movement. From it emanates the cause of all that 
we have discussed. It is the starting point of the arteries and 
of that natural heat which gives life and warmth to the vital 
parts. Many are of the opinion that this starting point is 
the heart. The nerves serve as organs of each of the senses. 
These proceed from the brain like cords and musical strings. 
They fulfill their individual functions throughout the various 
parts of the body. 

Hence, the brain, because it is the gathering point of all 
the senses, is softer than the other organs. From it emanate 
the nerves which report everything; for example, what the eye 
sees and what the ear hears, what odor has been perceived, 
and what sound the tongue has given forth or what taste 
the mouth has experienced. That which is softer is more 
susceptible to impressions. The harder quality of the nervous 
system, which results in a certain tautness, makes for more 
efficacy in action. 

7 Ps. 16.8. 

8 Matt. 7.5. 



274 SAINT AMBROSE 

(62) The sense of hearing has also a highly important 
function, nearly on a par with that of sight. The ears are 
rather prominent for this and for several other reasons. 
They serve a decorative purpose and, secondly, are in the 
way of anything, moist or otherwise, which may fall from 
the top of the head. Again, their commodiousness makes it 
possible for them to receive in their recesses repercussions of 
sound without the danger of injuring the interior structure. 
If this were not the case how astonished we would be at the 
instrusion of any sound or of a voice stronger than usual! 
Even with our present organs of hearing are we not often 
benumbed by an unexpected burst of sound? You may note 
the fact however that they present a bulwark against bitter 
cold and burning heat. The open passage ways are impen- 
etrable to these same attacks, whether from severity of cold 
or excess of heat. 

The sinuous quality of the interior part of the ear furnishes 
a basis for training in modulation, since a certain rhythmic 
movement follows from the natural windings of the ear. 
The entry of a sound of a voice results, too, in specific tonal 
modifications. Again, our own experience tells us that such a 
sinuous character of the ear tends to better receptivity of the 
spoken word. We see that the voice is rendered gentler and 
sweeter in situations where we hear an echo in the mountain 
hollows, in rocky caves, or along winding streams. 9 Not 
without its usefulness, too, is the wax in the ear. It helps to 
keep the voice intact, a result which at one and the same 
time aids the memory and is a source of pleasure. 

(63) What shall I say of the form of the nose, which 
offers for the perception of odors a cave-like structure with 
its two distended openings? The odor does not pass through 
in indifferent fashion, but stays long within, so that by this 
procedure it is able to satisfy fully the brain and the senses. 

9 Cf. Virgil, Georgics, 4.49,50. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 275 

It frequently happens that a transient aroma may continue 
to stay with you for an entire day. Through the nose, too, 
flow purgaments issuing from the head in such a way that 
the body is not adversely affected in the process. 

(64) The sense of touch is not without its significance. It 
represents the keenest sort of pleasure and gives as well an 
honest report of facts. Frequently, we are able to prove by 
touch what we cannot do with the aid of the eyes. 

(65) Finally, there remain the functions of the mouth 
and tongue, which furnish strength to all the others. The 
eyes would not have the power of vision without the sub- 
stantial basis of physical force provided by food and drink. 
The ears, nose, and hands would not be capable of hearing, 
smelling and touching, if the whole body were not sustained 
by nourishment. Our strength declines unless it is restored 
by continued absorption of adequate food. For that reason, 
those exhausted by hunger have no sensation of pleasure in 
the use of the senses. Not being, as it were, participants, 10 
they have no part in the predelictions of these senses. 

(66) What shall I say of the rampart of teeth built for the 
mastication of food and for the full expression of the human 
voice? Without teeth, what pleasure would our daily suste- 
nance give us? Hence we note that in this respect there is 
often a clear indication that old age has been reached. Be- 
cause of the loss of teeth, really nourishing food cannot be 
assimilated. 

(67) The tongue, too, fulfills a most important function 
in eating as well as in speaking. It acts like a plectrum or 
quill 11 in the production of speech. It might be compared 
to a hand in the process of bringing to the action of the teeth 
the food particles that otherwise would tend to fall. Speech 
has its special function. It is carried through the void on the 

10 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 6.428. 

11 Cf. Cicero, De natura deorum 2.149. 



276 SAINT AMBROSE 

wings of the air which is affected by this impulsive force, 
at once stirring and calming the emotions of the hearer, 
pacifying the angry, lifting up the down-hearted, and con- 
soling the grief-stricken. Granted that man shares his vocal 
powers with the birds, 12 there is, nevertheless, nothing in the 
irrational animals which can be equated with the sound of 
the human voice, provided, as it is, with rational powers. 

We share, in fact, with the rest of living beings the 
ordinary sense channels, but they do not make use of them 
in the same way we do. The heifer raises her eyes to the sky, 
but she is unaware of what she sees. This is true, also, of 
wild animals and birds. All living things have the same 
liberty to see, but man alone has the will to interpret what 
he perceives. He gazes at the rising and the setting of the 
celestial signs. He sees the glory of the sky and marvels at 
the starry orbs. He is aware of the diverse aspect of each 
star. He knows when the evening and the morning star arise 
and why they appear at these times. The movements of 
Orion, as well as the phases of the moon, are well known to 
him. He understands how the sun knows the hour of its 
setting 513 and how it preserves its allotted course with due 
regularity. 

Other living beings also have the power of hearing, but 
who other than man acquires knowledge by the sense of 
hearing? Man alone of all terrestial beings is able by listen- 
ing, reflection, and wisdom to gather the secrets of knowl- 
edge. He is able to say: 1 will hear what the Lord God 
will speak to me.' 14 The most important of all things is this: 
Man becomes the organ of the voice of God and gives utter- 
ance with his corporeal lips to the oracular words from 

12 Cf. the Epicurean doctrine in Lucretius 5,1379. 

13 Ps. 103.19. 

14 Ps. 84.9. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 277 

heaven, such as: 'Cry. What shall I cry? All flesh is grass.' 15 
He heard what he ought to say and he cried aloud. 

Let those who mark out with a compass the regions of the 
sky and of the earth keep their wisdom for themselves. Let 
them have that knowledge of which the Lord speaks: 'The 
wisdom of the prudent I will reject.' 16 Neither the rhythm 
of a speech nor the tones and notes of musical science will 
enter into my discussion at this point. I shall confine myself 
to that wisdom of which the Prophet speaks: The uncertain 
and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest 
to me.' 17 

(68) What shall I say of the kiss which is a symbol of 
affection and love? Doves exchange kisses, but what is this 
compared to the charm of a kiss of a human being in which 
the note of friendliness and kindliness is conspicuous, and 
where is expressed the indubitable sense of our sincerest 
affection? 

Hence the Lord, condemning His betrayer as a species of 
monstrosity, says: 'Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man 
with a kiss?' 18 That is to say, changing the emblem of love 
into a sign of betrayal and to a revelation of unfaithfulness, 
are you employing this pledge of peace for the purpose of 
cruelty? And thus by the oracular voice of God reproof is 
given to him who by the bestial conjunction of lips bestows 
a sentence of death rather than a covenant of love. 

It is worthy of note, too, that it is given to men alone to 
express with their lips what they feel in their hearts. Hence 
we make evident our tacit mental reflections with the speech 
that flows from our lips. What is the mouth of man but an 

15 Isa, 40.6. 

16 1 Cor. 1.19; Isa. 29.14. 

17 Ps. 50.8. 

18 Luke 22.48. 



278 SAINT AMBROSE 

avenue for discourse, a fount of disputation, a reception 
hall for words, a repository of the will? 

We have now completed our general discussion of the 
human body. It can be compared to a royal palace, which, 
though it has a number of adjoining halls, still preserves the 
appearance of a unified whole. 

(69) To come down to particulars, there is the throat or 
neck through which vital contacts are made with the whole 
body and through which, too, the coursing flow of this breath 
of ours is poured. 

Next we have the arms, and the strong fore-arm muscles, 
together with the hands strong for action and adaptable for 
holding objects by reason of their prolonged fingers. Hence 
that greater aptitude for work, that elegance in writing, 
and that 'pen of the scrivener that writeth swiftly, 319 whereby 
the oracles of God are set down in writing. It is the hand 
that serves the mouth with food. Great are the deeds for 
which the hand is eminent. The hand is placed on the holy 
altars as conciliator of divine grace. Through it we offer as 
well as partake in the celestial sacraments. It is the hand 
which performs and at the same time dispenses the divine 
mysteries. The Son of God did not disdain to declare by 
the mouth of David: 'The right hand of the Lord hath 
wrought strength: the right hand of the Lord hath exalteth 
me.' 20 It is the hand which has created all things, as the 
omnipotent God has said: 'Did not my hand make all these 
things?' 21 The hand is the outpost of the entire body, as 
well as the defender of the head. Although it is lower in 
position, the hand serves to decorate and beautify the top 
of the head with becoming adornments: 

(70) Who can worthily describe the wicker-work of the 

19 Ps. 44.2. 

20 Ps. 117.16. 

21 Isa. 66.2. 



SIX DAYS OF CREATION : SIX 279 

chest 22 or the tenderness of the stomach? If it were not for 
these, the more delicate internal organs could not be pro- 
tected and the folds of the intestines would undoubtedly 
be injured by the hard structure of bone. What is more 
conducive to health than that the lungs should hold a posi- 
tion contiguous to the heart? When the heart flares up with 
anger and indignation, it can soon be moderated by the action 
of the blood and vapor in the lungs. Again, the lungs are 
tender because they are ever filled with moisture so as to 
offset immediately the rigidity induced by indignation. 

We have set forth these matters in a fashion so brief and 
succinct that we seem, in the manner of the unskilled, just 
to touch on the merely obvious. Our purpose is not to probe 
deeply like a physician nor is it our design to search into 
what is hidden far in the haunts of nature. 

(71 ) The close association of the spleen and the liver leads 
to good results. The spleen absorbs what it feeds on, elimi- 
nates whatever refuse is found there. The result is that 
whatever food is left is able in its liquified condition to pass 
through the very fine fibers of the liver and is then trans- 
formed into blood. This serves to produce vital strength and 
is not evacuated with the excrements of the body. 

The construction of the intestines with their involved 
folds, woven without entanglement one with the other, indi- 
cates nothing else but the divine providence of the Creator, 
inasmuch as food particles neither pass quickly through the 
stomach nor are they immediately evacuated. If this were 
to happen, men would have an incessant hunger and con- 
tinuous craving for food. For, when the interior is emptied 
and drained at the moment when the food is being immedi- 
ately evacuated, an inordinate and insatiable desire for food 
and drink must necessarily follow a result which without 
question may lead to an early death. 

22 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 12.508. 



280 SAINT AMBROSE 

It is providentially designed, therefore, that the food be 
first digested in the upper ventricle and next be liquified in 
the exhalation of the liver. The resulting fluid is then trans- 
fused into the rest of the body. Our limbs are nourished by 
this substance, providing growth for the young and endur- 
ance for the old. The superfluous residue is carried through 
the intestines and finds its exit by the customary 'door in the 
side.' 23 

(72) In Genesis it is fittingly stated that the ark of Noe, 
was formed in the fashion of the human body. Of the ark 
God said: 'Make thee an ark of timber planks* Thou shalt 
make little rooms and thou shalt pitch it within and without.' 
The outward appearance was as follows: 'The door in the 
ark thou shalt set in the side with lower, middle chambers 
and third stories shalt thou make it.' 24 By this the Lord meant 
that 'the door set in the side 5 was to be the place through 
which superfluous food was to be ejected. It is fitting, also, 
that the channel for refuse was placed by the Creator remote 
from man's countenance, so that, when we bend over, our 
countenance may not be contaminated. At the same time, 
take note of the fact that the shameful parts of the body are 
placed there where they cannot cause us shame when they 
are suitably covered with clothing. 

(73) The pulsation of the veins is a messenger either of 
infirmity or of health. Although the veins are spread through- 
out the entire body, they are neither exposed nor uncovered. 
They are sheathed in such a slight coating of flesh that one 
can easily find then and as readily feel them. There is no 
thick covering of flesh which can conceal them from view. 
The bones, too, are all covered with a thin coating of flesh 
and are bound with the tendons. Those on the top of the 

23 Gen. 6.16. 

24 Gen. 14.1. 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 281 

head have the advantage of being covered with a thin skin. 
They are clothed, also, with a thick growth of hair, the better 
to provide protection against rain and cold. 

What shall I say of the genitals, which from the veins in 
the region of the neck through the reins and loins receive the 
generating seed destined for the function and satisfaction of 
procreation? 

(74) What shall I say of the purpose of the legs, which, 
without suffering any ill effects, are sufficient to sustain the 
weight of the whole body? The knee has a certain flexibility, 
by reason of which the offended master is especially appeased, 
his ire softened, and his favors induced. This is the gift of 
the most high Father to His Son: 'That in the name of the 
Lord every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth 
and under the earth and every tongue should confess that 
the Lord Jesus is in the glory of God the Father.' 25 

There are two things which above all others give delight 
to God: humility and faith. The leg expresses the emotion 
of humility and the submission of constant service. Faith 
makes the Son equal to the Father and makes evident that 
the same glory belongs to each. 

That man should have two legs and not more is altogether 
fitting. Wild animals and beasts have four legs, while birds 
possess two. Hence man has kinship with the winged flock 
in that with his vision he aims at what is high. He flies as if 
'on the oarage of wings' 26 by reason of the sagacity of his 
sublime senses. Hence it was said of him: 'Your youth is 
renewed like the eagle's/ 27 because he is near what is celestial 
and is higher than the eagle, as one who can say: 'But our 
citizenship is in heaven.' 28 

25 Phil. 2.10. 

26 A Virgilian expression often repeated. 

27 Ps. 102.5. 

28 Phil. 3.20. 



282 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 10 

(75) But now we seem to have reached the end of our 
discourse, since the sixth day is completed and the sum total 
of the work of the world has been concluded. There has 
taken place, in fact, the creation of man himself, who holds 
the principate over every living thing and is what might be 
called the summation of the universe and the delight of every 
creature in the world. 

Surely we should now make our contribution of silence, 
since God has rested from the work of the world. 1 He found 
repose in the deep recesses of man, in man's mind and pur- 
pose, for He had made man with the power of reasoning, an 
imitator of Himself, a striver after virtue, and one eager for 
heavenly grace. God finds comfort in these traits, as His own 
testimony declares: *Or on whom shall I find repose but on 
him who is humble and peaceful and who trembles at my 
words?' 2 

(76) I give thanks to our Lord God, who made a work of 
such a nature that He could find rest therein. He made the 
heavens. I do not read that He rested. He made the earth. 
I do not read that He rested. He made the sun, moon, and 
stars. I do not read that He found rest there. But I do read 
that He made man and then found rest in one whose sins 
He would remit. 

It may well be that He had given a symbolic picture then 
of the future Passion of the Lord, thus revealing that in 
man one day Christ would find repose. He anticipated for 
Himself repose [of death] in the body for the redemption 
of mankind, as He declares is His own words: C I have slept 
and taken my rest and I have risen up, because the Lord 

1 Cf. Gen. 2.2. 

2 Isa. 66.2 (Septuagint) . 



six DAYS OF CREATION: six 283 

hath protected me,' 3 He, the Creator, rested. To Him be 
honor, praise, and glory everlasting from the beginning of 
time, now, always, and for ever. Amen. 



3 PS. 3.6. 




PARADISE 



Chapter 1 

|N APPROACHING THIS SUBJECT I Seem tO be pOSSCSSed 

by an unusual eagerness in my quest to clarify the 

facts about Paradise, its place, and its nature to 

those who are desirous of this knowledge. This is all the 
more remarkable since the Apostle did not know whether 
he was in the body or out of the body, yet he says that he 
*was caught up to the third heaven.' 1 And again he says: 'I 
know such a man whether in the body or out of the body 
I do not know, God knows that he was caught up into 
paradise and heard secret words that man may not repeat. 
Of such a man I will boast; but of myself I will glory in 
nothing save in my infirmities. For if I do wish to boast, I 
shall not be foolish; for I am speaking the truth.' 2 If Para- 
dise, then, is of such a nature that Paul alone, or one like 
Paul, could scarcely see it while alive, and still was unable 
to remember whether he saw it in the body or out of the 
body, and, moreover, heard words that he was forbidden 



1 2 Cor. 12.2. 

2 2 Cor. 12.3-6. 



287 



288 SAINT AMBROSE 

to reveal if this be true, how will be it possible for us to 
declare the position of Paradise which we have not been 
able to see and, even if we had succeeded in seeing it, we 
would be forbidden to share this information with others? 
And, again, since Paul shrank from exalting himself by reason 
of the sublimity of the revelation, how much more ought we 
to strive not to be too anxious to disclose that which leads 
to danger by its very revelation! The subject of Paradise 
should not, therefore, be treated lightly. With these words 
let us set aside the question of what was hidden to Paul. 

(2) Nevertheless, we can find out who was the Creator 
of this Paradise. We read in Genesis that God planted a 
garden to the east and he put there the man he had formed.' 3 
Who had the power to create Paradise, if not almighty God, 
who 'spoke and they were made' 4 and who was never in 
want of the thing which He wished to bring into being? 
He planted, therefore, that Paradise of which He says in His 
wisdom: 'Every plant which my Father hajs not planted 
will be rooted up.' 5 This is a goodly plantation for angels 
and saints. The saints are said to lie beneath the fig tree and 
the vine, 6 In this respect they are the type of the angels 7 in 
that time of peace which is to come. 

(3) Hence, Paradise has many trees that are fruit-bearing, 
with plenty of sap, and vigor. Of these it is said: 'All 
the trees of the woods shall rejoice.' 8 The woods flourish 
ever with the green shoots of merit, just like that 'tree which 
is planted near the running waters, whose leaf shall not fall 
off, 39 because its fruit is plenteous. Here, then, is Paradise. 

3 Gen. 2.8. 

4 Ps. 32.9. 

5 Matt. 15.13. 

6 Mich. 6.6. 

7 Cf. Mark 12.25. 

8 Ps. 95.12. 

9 Ps. 1.3. 



PARADISE 



289 



(4) The place where it is planted is called delight; where- 
fore holy David says: Thou shalt not make them drink of 
the torrent of thy pleasure,' 10 for you have read that c a river 
rose in Eden watering the garden. 511 These woods, therefore, 
which were planted in Paradise are watered by the outpour- 
ing of the waters of that spirit concerning which He says 
elsewhere: The stream of the river maketh the city of God 
joyful 512 Here is that city of Jerusalem which above is free/ 3 
in which the different merits of the saints come to fruition. 

(5) In this garden, therefore, God put the man He had 
formed. Take note that He placed man there not in respect 
to the image of God, but in respect to the body of man. 
The incorporeal does not exist in a place. He placed man in 
Paradise, just as He placed the sun in heaven, awaiting 
lordship over the heavens, just as the creature expects the 
revelation of the sons of God. 14 

(6) Hence, if Paradise is a place where shrubs have 
opportunity to blossom, then Paradise has a certain vital 
force which receives and multiplies seeds in which each and 
every virtue is planted, and where flourishes the tree of life 
which is called Wisdom. Of this, Solomon says that Wisdom 
arose not of the earth but of the Father: Tor she is the 
brightness of eternal light 5 and 'the emanation of the glory 
of the almighty God, 315 

10 Ps. 35.9. 

11 Gen. 2.10. 

12 Ps. 45.5. 

13 Cf. Gal. 4.26. 

14 Cf. Rom. 8.9. 

15 Wisd. 7.25,26. 



290 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 2 

(7) There was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil 
in Paradise. This was so because c God made to grow a tree 
pleasant to sight and good for food-, the tree of life also in 
the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of 
good and evil 31 We shall see later whether this tree, like the 
others, was pleasant to sight and good for food. The ques- 
tion will be more fittingly discussed at the point where, on 
tasting the fruit of this tree, we find that man was deceived. 
Meantime, we should now reproach ourselves for not being 
able to know precisely the reasons behind these facts. We 
should not form a hasty judgment in respect to this product 
of creation, if it presents to our intellect what seems to us 
like the creation of serpents and certain poisonous creatures 
difficult and incomprehensible. In fact, we are unable, owing 
to human weakness, yet to know and understand the reason 
for the creation of each and every object. Let us, therefore, 
not criticise in holy Scripture something which we cannot 
comprehend. There are very many things which must not 
be subjected to the judgment of our intellect. Rather, these 
should be surveyed from the lofty heights of Divine Provi- 
dence and from the intentions of God Himself. 

(8) Without prejudice, then, to what we shall say here- 
after, set it down as a first principle that the subject of this 
tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to you a displeasing 
one. After men had tasted of this tree, they realized that 
they were naked. 2 Nevertheless, I will state for your benefit 
that as a consummation of God's creation this tree grew in 
Paradise and that it was permitted by God, in order that we 
might be able to know the pre-eminence of good. How could 
we learn to know that there was a difference between good 

1 Gen. 2.9. 

2 Cf. Gen. 3.7. 



PARADISE 291 

and evil, if there existed no knowledge of good and evil? 
We could not have come to realize that evil was evil, unless 
there was knowledge of good, and that there could not be 
knowledge of good, unless there was actual good. Again, we 
could not have know what in itself was good, unless there 
was knowledge of evil. Take an example from the nature 
of the human body. There exists as a matter of fact a certain 
bitter and poisonous substance which has been discovered to 
have a general salutary effect on the health of men. Hence, 
what we regard as evU frequently turns out to be not in 
every respect evil, but to be advantageous for general use. 
Just as poison exists in a part of the body but has a beneficial 
effect on the body as a whole, so God established the knowl- 
edge in part of what is good and evil, in order that the 
whole might be benefitted. 

(9) Hence it follows that the serpent in Paradise was 
certainly not brought into being without the will of God. In 
the figure of the serpent we see the Devil. That the Devil 
existed even in Paradise we are informed by the Prophet 
Ezechiel, who in discussing the Prince of Tyre says: 'Thou 
wast in the pleasures of the paradise of God.' 3 We maintain 
that the Prince of Tyre stands for the Devil, Shall we, there- 
fore, accuse God because we cannot comprehend the treas- 
ures with the exception of those which He has deigned to 
reveal of His majesty and wisdom which lie hidden and 
concealed in Christ? Yet He did reveal to us the fact that the 
wickedness of the Devil is fruitful for man's salvation. This 
would not be the Devil's intention, but the Lord makes the 
wickedness of him who stands in opposition to us contribute 
something to our salvation. The wickedness of the Devil has 
caused the virtue and patience of one holy man to shine in 
a clearer light. The justice of Job was so disciplined and 

3 Ezech. 28.13. 



292 SAINT AMBROSE 

exercised by the wickedness of his opponent that eventually 
he gained the crown of victory over his adversary, the Devil. 
No one is crowned 'unless he has competed according to the 
rules. 54 Joseph's chastity, too, would never have been recorded 
for us, if it did not happen that a woman, the wife of his 
master and friend, incited and goaded by the Devil's allure- 
ments, had not played with his affections. 5 This woman 
finally endeavored to bring about his death. This event 
added more to the fame of a man who by his continence 
faced death in defense of chastity. Do you desire to know 
God's plan? Here is an instance. Through the instrumentality 
of the Devil there was once an occasion when a just man 
prepared to perpetrate manslaughter. The situation was one 
that involved the murder of one's own son. Yet, for all that, 
the Lord tempted Abraham in this wise. He demanded that 
Abraham sacrifice his son to Him. By reason of this temp- 
tation he was able to prove himself faithful to the Lord, 
since compliance to his vow and not pity for his beloved son 
brought about repeal of the order. 6 There was, therefore, 
in Paradise a tree of knowledge of good and evil which 
appeared to the eye to be beautiful and to the taste to be 
edible. It was not actually good to eat, for its fruit appeared 
to have a harmful effect on man. What is injurious to indi- 
viduals may nevertheless have a beneficial effect on men as 
a whole. The Devil, for example, did harm to Judas, 7 but 
he bestowed the wreath of victory on all the other Apostles, 
inasmuch as they were able to face and overcome the force 
of his temptation. 

(10) Accordingly, let it not be a subject of reprehension 
or doubt that the Devil existed in Paradise. As a matter of 

4 2 Tim. 2.5. 

5 Ci Gen. 39.17. 

6 Gf. Gen. 22.1, 

7 Cf. Luke 22.3. 



PARADISE 



293 



fact he was powerless to bar from the saints the way of their 
ascent. As one who had the right of possession, he did not 
evict the just from their habitation. It may be that he turned 
away from the occupancy of that high estate some who were 
in fact slothful and vicious. There is a recorded event that 
arouses to a much greater degree our regard and our admi- 
ration. This is the fact that the Devil was excluded from the 
prayers of the saints as the result of an event which was to 
take place: C I was watching Satan fall as lightning from 
heaven. 58 Let us, therefore, not fear one who is so weak that 
he is destined to fall from heaven. He actually received the 
power to tempt us but not the competency to subvert us, 
except when our weak and unassisted will falters because it 
is powerless to summon aid. For that reason we need to know 
what was the nature of the deceit inflicted on the first man. 
We ought to know, too, the method and manner of the 
Devil's procedure and what in man he thought was subject 
to temptation, so that we, in knowing this, may proceed to 
take precautions. 

(11) Many people nevertheless are of the opinion that 
the Devil was not in Paradise, although we read that he 
stood with the angels in heaven. 9 These persons interpret 
the statement of Scripture according to their own fancy. 
In this way they put aside any objection which they may 
have to the words of Scripture. We stand by the conviction 
held by one who preceded us that sin was committed by 
man because of the pleasure of sense. We maintain that the 
figure of the serpent stands for enjoyment and the figure of 
the woman for the emotions of the mind and heart. The 
latter is called by the Greeks ociaGrjau;. When according to 
this theory, the senses are deceived, the mind, which the 
Greeks call vouc;, falls into error. Hence, not without reason 

8 Luke 10.18. 

9 Of. Zach. 3.1. 



294 SAINT AMBROSE 

the author to whom I refer 10 accepts the Greek word vouq 
as a figure of a man and ocl'a6r]ai<; as that of a woman. 
Hence, some have interpreted Adam to mean an earthly 
vouq. In the Gospel the Lord sets forth the parable of the 
virgins who awaited the coming of the bridegroom with 
either lighted or extinguished lamps. Thus He exemplifies 
either the pure emotions of the wise or the impure senses of 
the unwise. 11 If Eve, that is, the emotions of the first woman, 
had kept her lamp lighted, she would not have enfolded us 
in the meshes of her sin. She would not have fallen from the 
height of immortality which is established as the reward of 
virtue. 

Chapter 3 

(12) Paradise is, therefore, a land of fertility that is to 
say, a soul which is fertile planted in Eden, that is, in a 
certain delightful or well-tilled land in which the soul finds 
pleasure, Adam exists there as vouc; [mind] and Eve as 'sense/ 
Take note of what this soul of ours has in the nature of defense 
against natural and weak tendencies or against situations 
which might be unfavorable to us in our attempts to avoid 
danger. 

(13) There was a fount which irrigated the land of Para- 
dise. 1 Is not this stream our Lord Jesus Christ, the Fount as 
well as the Father of eternal life? It is written: Tor with 
thee is the fountain of life/ 2 Hence: Trom within him 
there shall flow living waters.' 3 We read of a fountain and 
a river which irrigates in Paradise the fruit-bearing tree that 

10 Cf. Philo, De opificio mundi 59; Leeum alles-oriae I 29. 

11 Cf. Matt. 25.1. 

1 Cf. Gen. 2.10. 

2 Ps. 35.10. 

3 John 7.38; cf, Isa. 58.11. 



PARADISE 



295 



bears fruit for life eternal. You have read, then, that a fount 
was there and that 'a river rose in Eden/ 4 that is, in your 
soul there exists a fount. This is the meaning of Solomon's 
words: 'Drink water out of thy own cistern and the streams 
of thy own well. 55 This refers to the fount which rose out of 
that well-tilled soul, full of pleasant things, this fount which 
irrigates Paradise, that is to say, the soul's virtues that 
blossom because of their eminent merits. 

(14) The river, 5 we are told, 'is separated into four 
branches. The name of one is Phison which encircles all the 
land of Hevila, where there is gold. And the gold of that 
land is good; bdellium and onyx there. The name of the 
second river is Gihon. This river encircles all the land of 
Ethiopia, The name of the third river is Tigris, which river 
flows by the Assyrians. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.' 6 
There are, therefore, four rivers. Phison so called by the 
Hebrews, but named Ganges by the Greeks flows in the 
direction of India, Gihon is the river Nile, which flows 
around the land of Egypt or Ethiopia. The land enclosed 
by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is called Mesopotamia 
because it lives between these two rivers. This name conveys 
its location even to far-distant peoples and, besides, expresses 
popular belief. But how is the fount called the Wisdom of 
God? That this is a fount the Gospel tells us in the words, 
'If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.' 7 Wisdom 
is a fount according to the Prophet: 'Come and eat my 
bread and drink the wine which I have mingled for you.' 8 
As Wisdom is the fountain of life, it is also the fountain of 
spiritual grace. It is also the fountain of other virtues which 
guide us to the course of eternal life. Therefore, the stream 

4 Gen. 2.10. 

5 Prov. 5.15. 

6 Gen. 2.10-14. 

7 John 7.37. 

8 Prov. 9.15. 



296 SAINT AMBROSE 

that irrigates Paradise rises from the soul when well-tilled, 
not from the soul which lies uncultivated. The results there- 
from are fruit trees of diverse virtues. There are four princi- 
pal trees which constitute the divisions of Wisdom. These 
are the well-known four principal virtues: prudence, temper- 
ance, fortitude, and justice. The wise men of this world have 
adopted this division from us and transferred it to their 
writings. Hence, Wisdom acts as the source from which 
these four rivers take their rise, producing streams that are 
composed of these virtues. 

(15) Phison, therefore, stands for prudence. Hence it 
has pure gold, brilliant rubies, and topaz stones. We often 
refer to wise discoveries as gold, as the Lord says, speaking 
through the Prophet: C I gave to them gold and silver.' 9 Daniel 
says of the wise: 'If you sleep among the midst of the lots, 
you shall be as the wings of the dove covered with silver and 
the hinder parts of her back like to gold. 310 In this way one 
who puts his trust in the aid of the Old and New Testament 
can by resourceful inquiry attain the inmost secrets of the 
Wisdom of God. Here, therefore, is found pure gold, not the 
metal which is melted, which belongs to this earth, and is 
subject to corruption. In this land, we are told, there is 
found the brilliant ruby stone in which there exists the vital 
spark of our souls. Here, too, is the topaz stone which by 
the nature of its color reveals an effect of greenness and 
vitality. Plants which are alive give forth green sprouts, while 
those that are dead are sapless and dry. The earth grows 
green when it is in bloom. The seeds, too, sprout forth green 
shoots in their periods of growth. The river Phison is right- 
fully given first place. The Hebrews call it Pheoyson, which 
means 'change of mouth,' because it flows even through Lydia 
and not merely around one nation, for Wisdom, which is of 

9 Osee 2.8. 
10 Ps. 67.14. 



PARADISE 



297 



benefit to all men., is productive and useful. Hence, if a 
person were to leave Paradise, this river of Wisdom would 
be the first object he would meet. Thus he may not become 
inert and arid and his return to Paradise may be facilitated. 
Many men resort to this river, which is considered to have 
marvelous beauty and fecundity. Accordingly, it is regarded 
as a figure of Widsom, which confers manifold fruits in the 
coming of the Lord of Salvation. It flows, too, to the very 
ends of the earth, because, by Wisdom all men have been 
redeemed. Wherefore it is written: 'Their sound hath gone 
forth into all the earth and their words unto the end of the 
world.' 11 

(16) The second river is Gihon, by which, when they 
were sojourning in Egypt, was laid down the law of the 
Israelites that they should depart from Egypt, 12 and having 
girded their loins they should as a sign of temperance par- 
take of a lamb. It is fitting that the chaste and the sanctified 
should celebrate the Pasch of the Lord. For that reason, the 
observance of the Law was first carried out beside that river, 
the name of which signifies an opening of the earth. There- 
fore, just as an opening absorbs the earth and whatever 
defilements and refuse there may be in it, in like manner 
chastity tends to consume all the passions of the body. Ap- 
propriately, then, the observance of the established Law first 
took place there, because carnal sin is absorbed by the Law. 
And so Gihon, which is a figure of chastity, is said to sur- 
round the land of Ethiopia in order to wash away our lowly 
bodies and quench the fires of our vile flesh. The meaning 
of Ethiopia in Latin is 'holy and vile/ What is more lowly, 
what is more like Ethiopia, than our bodies, blackened, too, 
by the darkness of sin? 

(17) The third river is the Tigris, which flows by the 

11 Ps. 18.5. 

12 Exod. 12.11. 



298 SAINT AMBROSE 

Assyrian land. To this river the deceiver Israel was dragged 
as a prisoner. This river is the swiftest of all rivers. The 
Assyrian dwell by it, guarding its course for this is the 
meaning of its name. Hence, those who by their fortitude 
hold in check the guileful vices of the body and direct them- 
selves to higher things are thought to have something in 
common with this river. For that same reason fortitude ema- 
nates from that source in Paradise. Fortitude in its rapid 
course tosses aside everything standing in its path and like 
this river is not hindered by any material obstacle. 

(18) The fourth river is the Euphrates, which means 
in Latin 'fecundity and abundance of fruits.' It presents a 
symbol of Justice, the nourishment of every soul. No virtue 
produces more abundant benefits than Equity or Justice, 
which is more concerned with others than with itself, neg- 
lecting its own advantages, and preferring the common 
good. Many derive Euphrates from the Greek c3cn6 TOO 
sucppcdvEoGoa, that is, from a 'feeling of gladness, 3 because 
the human race rejoices in nothing more than it does in Jus- 
tice and Equity. The question as to why, although the location 
itself of other rivers is reported, we have no description of 
the regions through which the river Euphrates flows calls 
for an answer. The waters of this river are considered to 
have a vital quality which fosters growth and increase. 
Wherefore, the wise men among the Hebrews and the 
Assyrians called this river Auxen [increase] in contradis- 
tinction to the water of other rivers. The opposition has 
been well established between wisdom and malice, fortitude 
and irascibility, temperance, and other vices. Justice, on 
the other hand, is the most important as it represents the 
concord of all the other virtues. Hence it is not known from 
the places from which it flows, that is to say, it is not known 
in part. Justice is not divisibile into parts. It is, as it were, 
the mother of all virtues. In these four rivers are symbolized. 



PARADISE 



299 



therefore, the four principal virtues. It may well be said 
that these virtues have been the determining boundary lines 
for the four great ages of the world. This, in fact, is the topic 
of the discourse which follows. 

(19) The first age, then, is the age of Wisdom. This 
period extends from the beginnings of the world up to the 
time of the Flood, The Lord has given us the names of the 
just men of this age. Abel was so called, and so was Enos, 
a man made to the image of God, who hoped to invoke 
the name of the Lord God, Henoch, also, whose name in 
Latin means 'grace of God,' was carried up to heaven, 13 
and Noe, who was a just man, 14 and one who might be called 
a guide to tranquillity. 15 

(20) The second age of the world is that of Abraham 
and Isaac, Jacob, and a number of other patriarchs. This 
was a period in which religion flourished in its more temper- 
ate and purest form. Pure was Isaac, a son given to Abraham 
according to promise, not as an offering of the body, but as 
a gift of divine beneficence. In him there is found the figure 
of Him who is pure as the Apostle teaches. The promises 
were made to Abraham and to his offspring. He does not 
say, "And to his offsprings," but as of one, "And to thy 
offspring, 35 who is Christ, 516 

(21) The third age lies in the period of the Law of 
Moses and in the time of the other Apostles. Tor time will 
fail me if I tell of Gideon, of Barac, of Samson, of David 
and of Samuel, Elias and Elisaeus, who by faith conquered 
kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises, stopped the 
mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the 
e< % e of the sword , recovered strength from weakness, became 

13 Cf. Gen. 5.24. 

14 Cf. Gen. 6.9. 

15 Cf. Isidore, Etym. 7.6.15. 

16 Gal. 3.16. 



300 SAINT AMBROSE 

valiant in battle and captured the camps of aliens. 517 Not 
without reason, then, do these men stand as types of fortitude. 
Further on we are told: 'They were sawed asunder, they 
were tempted, they were put to death by the sword. They 
went about in goatskins, destitute, distressed, afflicted 
of whom the world was not worthy wandering in deserts, 
mountains, caves and holes in the earth,' 18 Appropriately, 
therefore, do we set these men down as types of Fortitude. 

(22) The figure of Justice is, according to the Gospel, a 
meritorious one, because 'it is unto salvation to everyone 
who believes. 519 Hence, the Lord Himself says: 'Permit us 
to fulfill all justice.' 20 She is truly the prolific parent of 
the other virtues. Yet, whoever possesses any of the above- 
mentioned principal virtues has the other virtues, also, since 
these virtues are so connected as to form a unit. Surely, 
Abel, a just and courageous man, Abraham, a man of great 
patience, the Prophets, men of the greatest wisdom, and 
Moses, a man of great learning, considered that the inglori- 
ousness of Christ brought far greater honor than the treasures 
of Egypt, Who was wiser than Daniel? Solomon, too, sought 
wisdom and merited it. 21 Enough has been said, therefore, 
on the subject of the four rivers of virtue whose waters are 
salutary. We have discussed, too, the reason why Phison 
is said to have not only the gold, but also the ruby and the 
topaz stone, of that goodly land. We propose now to develop 
the latter topic. 

(23) Since Enos in his wisdom yearned to know the 
name of God, he seems to us to stand for gold that is good. 22 
Henoch, who was borne aloft and did not see death, can be 

17 Heb. 11.32-34. 

18 Heb. 11.37,38. 

19 Cf. Rom. 1.16. 

20 Matt. 3.15, 

21 Cf. 3 Kings 3.8. 

22 Cf. Gen. 4.26; 5.24. 



PARADISE 301 

likened to a ruby stone of pleasant odor which holy Henoch 
by his works offered to God, thus exhaling in his active and 
exemplary life something akin to sweetness. Noe, on the 
other hand, like the green topaz stone, suggests a color which 
represents life, since he alone at the time of the Flood pre- 
served in his ark the vital seed of the formation of the world 
to come. Paradise, a land watered by many rivers, is then 
appropriately situated in the East and not in the regions 
facing it. This reference to the East is significant, for the 
rising sun "may be compared to Christ 23 who flashed forth a 
gleam of eternal light which exists in Eden, that is, in a 
land of delight. 

Chapter 4 

(24) 'And God took the man whom he has created and 
placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.' 1 
Note, now, the person who was taken and the land where 
he was formed. The virtue of God, therefore, took man and 
breathed into him, so that man's virtue will advance and 
increase. God set him apart in Paradise that you may know 
that man was taken up, that is to say, was breathed upon 
by the power of God. Note the fact that man was created 
outside Paradise, whereas woman was made within it. 
This teaches us that each person acquires grace by reason of 
virtue, not because of locality or of race. Hence, although 
created outside Paradise, that is, in an inferior place, man 
is found to be superior, whereas woman, created in a better 
place, that is to say, in Paradise, is found to be inferior. She 
was first to be deceived and was responsible for deceiving 
the man. Wherefore the Apostle Paul has related that holy 

23 Cf. Matt. 24.27. 



1 Gen. 2.15. 



302 SAINT AMBROSE 

women have in olden times been subject to the stronger 
vessel and recommends them to obey their husbands as their 
masters. 2 And Paul says: 'Adam was not deceived, but the 
woman was deceived and was in sin.' 3 This is a warning 
that no one ought to rely on himself, for she who was made 
for assistance needs the protection of a man. 4 The head of 
the woman is man, who, while he believed that he would 
have the assistance of his wife, fell because of her. 5 Where- 
fore, no one ought to entrust himself lightly to another unless 
he has first put that person's virtue to the test. Neither should 
he claim for himself in the role of protector one whom he 
believes is subservient to him. Rather, a person should share 
his grace with another. Especially is this true of one who is 
in the position of greater strength and one who plays the 
part of protector. We have advice of the Apostle Peter, 
wherein he recommends that husbands pay honor to their 
wives: Husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives 
considerately, paying honor to the woman as to the weaker 
vessel and as co-heir of the grace of life that your prayers 
be not hindered.' 6 

(25) Therefore man was placed in Paradise, while the 
woman was created in Paradise. The woman, even before 
she was deceived by the serpent, shared grace with a man, 
since she was taken from a man. Yet 'this is a great mys- 
tery,' 7 as the Apostle said. Wherefore he traced the source 
of life from it. And so Scripture refers only to man in the 
words: 'He placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and 
keep it.' 8 The act of tilling and the act of keeping are one 
and the same thing. In tilling there is a certain exercise of 

2 1 Peter 3.1. 

3 1 Tim. 2.14. 

4 Cf. Gen. 2.18. 

5 1 Cor. 13.3. 

6 1 Peter 3.7, 

7 Eph. 5.32, 

8 Gen. 2.15. 



PARADISE 



303 



man's virtue, while in keeping it is understood that the work 
is accomplished, for protection implies something completed. 
These two acts are required of man. In this way, it is gener- 
ally assumed, man can seek after something new and may 
keep what he has acquired. Philo, on the other hand, 
limited his interpretation of this Scriptural passage to its 
moral aspect, since, because of his Jewish tendencies, he 
did not understand its spiritual import. He maintained 
that the two aspects were those of tilling the fields and 
of protecting the home. Although, he said, Paradise did 
not require labor in the fields, the first man, even in Paradise^ 
undertook a kind of toil so as to furnish a law for future 
ages by which to bind us to the performance and to the 
preservation of our bounden duty and to the function of 
supporting hereditary succession. 9 Both these point of view, 
the moral and the spiritual, are exacted of you. The pro- 
phetic psalm instructs you regarding this: 'Unless the Lord 
build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the 
Lord keep the city, they watch in vain that keepeth it. 310 
It is obvious that the laborers are those who engage in the 
actual operation of building, while the watchers are those 
to whom the duty of protecting the perfected work is 
entrusted. Hence the Lord said to the Apostles, as if they 
were on the point of perfecting their work: 'Watch and 
pray that you may not enter into temptation.' u By this He 
meant that the function of a nature that was perfected 
along with the grace of abundant virtue should be preserved 
and that no one, even one who has attained some perfection, 
ought to feel really secure of himself unless he remains 
vigilant. 

9 Cf. Philo, Quaestiones in Gen. 1.14 (found in a Latin translation 
from the Armenian) ; see Colson and Whitaker, Philo, suppl. vol. I. 

10 Ps. 126.1. 

11 Matt. 26.41. 



304 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 5 

(26) And the Lord God commanded the man thus: 
'from every tree of the garden thou shalt eat, but of the tree 
of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for the 
day you eat of it you shall die.' 1 Why did He use the singular 
'thou shalt eat' when He bade them eat of every tree, and, 
again, when He bade them eat of the tree of good and evil, 
why did He use the plural 'You shall not eat'? This is no 
trifling question. This problem can, in fact, be solved by 
the authority of the Scriptures if you study them carefully. 
Scripture refers to something good and something that should 
be done. What is good is naturally associated with what 
should be done. On the other hand, what is base is separate 
and unrelated to what should be done. And so the Lord, 
aiming always at oneness, gave orders in accordance with 
this principle. Hence He achieves oneness who 'has made 
both one' 2 He not only made both one, for He bade us 
to be 'one body and one Spirit.' 3 'The first-born of every 
creature,' 4 since He is in union with the faith, is always 
closely joined to the Father, because 'the Word was with 
God.' 5 Wherefore He says: 'I and the Father are one, 56 in 
order to show His union with the Father in majesty and in 
dignity. But He bade us to be one and transfused into us 
by the adoption of grace the likeness of His own nature and 
His own oneness, saying: 'Father, that they may be one, 
even as we are one, I in them and thou in me.' 7 When He 

1 Gen. 2.16. 

2 Eph. 2.14. 

3 Eph. 4.4. 

4 Col. 1.15. 

5 John 1.1. 

6 John 10.30. 

7 John 17.22. 



PARADISE 



305 



prescribes a good, therefore. He does it to one person, saying, 
'Thou shalt eat, 3 for the oneness cannot be gainsaid. Where, 
however, He says that the tree of the knowledge of good 
and evil should not be tasted, He speaks in effect to several 
people: You shall not eat.' What has been prohibited has 
general application to several people. But I have another 
opinion on this matter. I am able to discover the meaning 
of what we are discussing in the very words of God Himself, 
Adam alone was bidden to taste of every tree and it was 
foreseen that he would follow that injunction. In the plural 
sense, and not in the singular, God sees that the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil should not be tasted. He knew 
that the woman would sin. Thus, by using the plural, God 
points out that they will not follow the injunction, because, 
where there are many, there are differences of opinion. 

(27) If we look into the sense of the words as expressed in 
the Septuagint, 8 the meaning is clear. Symmachus, however, 
takes both expressions in a singular sense. This is explained 
by the fact that in the Law, God, addressing His people, 
uses the singular: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one 
Lord' and 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.' 9 I am not 
influenced by the interpretation of Symmachus, who could 
not see the oneness of the Father and Son, although at times 
both he and Asylas admitted it in their discussions. The fact 
that God addresses in the singular number a people who 
will later contravene His commands should not lead us to 
think that I am dissenting from my former statement, 
inasmuch as the Jewish people, regarded as a single person, 
violated the injunctions imposed upon them. We have here 
a law of the Spirit whereby God addresses the people in 

8 The Vulgate has the singular form: ne comedas; the Septuagint 
has the plural: oO (J>dyO0. 

9 Deut. 6.4,5. 



306 SAINT AMBROSE 

divine language. In this case we should consider not so much 
the words as their prophetic import. Wherefore He says: 
Thou shalt not boil a kid in the milk of his dam. 310 

(28) From this point on, the celestial precepts present 
no great difficulty. However, there has been raised by several 
authors a question which we ought to answer lest simple 
minds be led astray by erroneous interpretation. Many 
authors, like Apelles in his thirty-eighth volume, 11 propose 
the following questions. How is it, for example, that the tree 
of life has more power for giving life than the breath of God? 
Again, if man is not made perfect by God and each person 
acquired by his own effort a more perfect state of virtue 
for himself, does it not seem that man would gain for himself 
more than God had bestowed on him? Then they make 
the objection that, if man had not tasted death, he certainly 
could not be aware of what he had not tasted. What man 
had not tasted was something unknown to him. Accordingly, 
he could not be afraid of that of which he had no knowledge. 
To no purpose, therefore, did God inflict death as a punish- 
ment on men for whom it holds no fear. 

(29) We should be aware of the fact, therefore, that 
where God has planted a tree of life He has also planted a 
tree of life in the midst of Paradise. It is understood that 
He planted it in the middle. Therefore, in the middle of 
Paradise there was both a tree of life and a cause for death. 
Keep in mind that man did not create life. By carrying 
out and observing the precepts of God it was possible for 
man to find life. This was the life mentioned by the Apostle: 
Tour life is hidden with Christ in God. 512 Man, therefore, 
was, figuratively speaking, either in the shadow of life 

10 Exod. 34,26. 

11 Apelles; cf, Harnack, TU 6.3.116. 

12 Col. 3.3. 



PARADISE 



307 



because our life on earth is but a shadow or man had life, 
as it were, in pledge, for he had been breathed on by God. 
He had, therefore, a pledge of immortality, but while in 
the shadow of life he was unable, by the usual channels of 
sense, to see and attain the hidden life of Christ with God. 
Although not yet a sinner, he was not possessed of an incor- 
rupt and inviolable nature. Of course, one who afterwards 
lapsed into sin was far from being as yet in the category of 
sinner. Hence, he was in the shadow of life, whereas sinners 
are in the shadow of death. According to Isaias, the people 
who sinned sat in the shadow of death. 13 For these a light 
arose, not by the merits of their virtues, but by the grace 
of God. There is no distinction, therefore, between the breath 
of God and the food of the tree of life. No man can say that 
he can acquire more by his own efforts than what is granted 
him by the generosity of God. Would that we had been able 
to hold on to what we had received! Our toils avail only 
to the extent that we take back again what was once con- 
ferred on us. The third objection, that one who has not 
tasted death cannot fear it, finds its solution in our common 
experience. There is an instinct innate in all living creatures 
which impels them to dread even what they have not yet 
experienced as harmful. Why is it that doves, even at the 
moment of their birth, are terrorized at the sight of a hawk? 
Why are wolves dreaded by sheep and hawks by chickens? 
In irrational animals there is a certain innate fear of creatures 
of a different species to the extent that, even though these 
animals are irrational, they have a feeling that death is 
something to be shunned. Such being the case, how true is 
it that the first man, fully and indubitably endowed with 
reason, should be conscious of the fact that death is something 
to be avoided! 

13 Isa. 9.2. 



308 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 6 

(30) There are some, again, who suggest for solution 
difficulties such as the following. For example, they maintain 
that refusal to obey an order is not always wrong. If the 
order is a good one, then the act of obeying is commendable. 
But if the order is a wicked one, it is not feasible to obey it. 
Therefore, it is not always wrong to disobey an order, but 
it is wrong to refuse to obey an order that is good. The tree 
of the knowledge of good and evil is a creation that is good, 
since God had knowledge of good and evil. Hence He says: 
"Indeed ! The man has become like one of us. 51 If, therefore, 
possessing the knowledge of good and evil is good and if 
what God has is a good, it would appear that the prohibition 
to prevent man from making use of it is not a righteous one. 
Such is their argument. But, if they were to realize the real 
significance and force of the word 'knowledge 5 as they 
should The Lord knew who belong to him/ 'that is, He 
knew those surely among whom He dwells and walks, who 
were made one out of so many then certainly these people 
would know that knowledge is not to be interpreted merely 
as superficial comprehension, but as the carrying out of 
what ought to be accomplished. Man ought to obey the 
command. A failure to obey is a violation of duty. The man, 
therefore, who disobeys falls into error because violation of 
duty is a sin. Even if these people should agree to a modified 
meaning of the word 'knowledge' and consider that an 
imperfect comprehension of good and evil was prohibited, 
in that respect, too, there is a violation of duty in not com- 
plying with the command. The Lord God has made it clear 
that even an imperfect comprehension of good and evil 
should be prohibited. 

1 Gen. 3,32. 

2 Num. 16.5; 2 Tim. 2.19. 



PARADISE 309 

(31) Another problem: The man who does not know 
good and evil differs in no respect from a little child. A 
judge who is just does not consider a child to be guilty of 
crime. The just Creator of the world would never have 
found fault with a child for his lack of knowledge of good 
and evil, because a child cannot be charged with a violation 
of a law. In the preceding passage, however, we have said 
that, once you accept the fact that there is a knowledge that 
is imperfect, then knowledge of good and evil may be taken 
in two senses. It is certainly false to hold that the man who 
does not know good and evil is not different from a child. If 
it is wrong to maintain that such a man does not differ from 
a child, then Adam is not to be thought of as a child. If 
he was not a child, then surely he is liable to sin, inasmuch 
as he is not a child. If he is subject to sin, then punishment 
follows the sin, because the man who cannot avoid sin is 
reckoned to be liable to punishment. It can even happen 
that the person who has no knowledge of good and evil may 
not be a child: Tor before the child knew good and evil, 
he refused the evil/ Again we read: Tor before the child 
knew to call his father and mother, he will receive the 
strength of Damascus and the toils of Samaria. 33 Perfect, 
therefore, is the man who performs a good deed even if he 
has not attained the knowledge of good and evil, just as 
many are a law to themselves' 4 even before they know 
the Law. Was the Apostle before he learned: Thou shalt 
not lust, 5 quite unaware that concupiscence was a sin? On 
this point he says: 'I did not know sin save through the 
Law. For I had not known lust unless the Law had said, 
'Thou shalt not lust." ' 5 Even a child can become by the law 
of nature perfect in that respect before he knows that con- 

3 Isa. 7.16; 8.4. 

4 Rom. 2.14. 

5 Exod. 20.17; Rom. 7,7. 



310 SAINT AMBROSE 

cupiscence is a sin or admit the sin of concupiscence. Hence, 
God willed that man know the nature of evil in a superficial 
fashion lest, being imperfect, he may be unable to avoid 
evil. By not obeying a command we are subject to blame. 
We are thus led to admit our error. Again, if we are referring 
to a very profound knowledge of good and evil which in 
itself makes for perfection . . . 6 A little child is not, like a 
grown-up, immediately to be chastised, because he has not 
yet reached a capacity to understand. 

(32) Again, more criticisms crop up. 7 There is the 
objection that a person who does not know good and evil 
is unaware that disobedience to a command is in itself 
an evil, nor is he aware that that obedience to a command 
is itself a good. Hence it is argued that the person who is 
in this respect ignorant is deserving, not of condemnation, 
but of pardon. What we have already maintained above 
presents a ready solution to this problem, Man is capable 
of realizing that the utmost deference should be given to his 
Maker because of what God had already conferred on him, 
namely, the fact that God had breathed on him and that 
he was placed in the Garden of Delight. Wherefore, if he 
was ignorant of the meaning of good and evil, neverthe- 
less, since the Creator of such mighty things had declared 
that one should not eat of the tree of good and evil, loyal 
adherence should be given to Him who gave the command. 
It was not a question of technical knowledge, but of fidelity. 
He certainly was aware that God was in a position of pre- 
eminence and, as such, heed should be paid to His command. 
Although he did not understand the precise significance of 
the commands, he was conscious of the fact that deference 
should be paid to the person of the Commander. This con- 
viction on his part stemmed from nature. He was as yet 

6 Schenlcl points to a lacuna in the manuscript here. 

7 From Apelles; cf. Harnack, op. cit. 



PARADISE 311 

incapable of discriminating between good and evil. Wherefore 
the woman answers the serpent: 'Of the fruit of all the trees 
in the garden we shall eat, but of the fruit in the middle 
of the garden, God said, you shall not eat of it. 38 She knew, 
therefore, that the command must be obeyed. Hence she 
said: We shall eat of every fruit which the Lord ordered, 
but God has given an order that one should not eat of the 
tree in the middle of the Garden, lest he die. Wherefore, 
she who knew that the command should be obeyed was 
surely aware that it was wrong not to comply with the 
command and that she would be justly condemned for her 
refusal to obey. 

(33) One more point. The circumstances connected with 
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were such as to 
convince us that both good and evil were recognized. We 
are led to believe from the evidence of Scripture that such 
was the case: 'When they both ate, their eyes were opened 
and they realized that they were naked,' 9 that is, the eyes of 
their mind were opened and they realized the shame of 
being naked. For that reason, when the woman ate of the 
tree of the knowledge of good and evil she certainly sinned 
and realized that she had sinned. On realizing this, she 
should not have invited her husband to share in her sin. By 
enticing him and by giving him what she herself had tasted 
she did not nullify her sin; rather, she repeated it. Certainly 
it stands to reason that she did intend to lure the person 
whom she loved to share in her punishment. She should be 
expected to ward off from one who was unaware of it the 
danger of falling into a sin of which she had knowledge, 
Yet this woman, knowing that she could not remain in 
Paradise after the Fall, seems to have had a fear that she 
alone would be ejected from the Garden. Hence, after the 

8 Gen. 3.2,3. 

9 Gen. 3,6,7. 



312 SAINT AMBROSE 

Fall, they both went into hiding. Being aware, therefore, 
that she would have to be separated from the man she loved, 
she had no desire to be deceived. 

(34) Another point. Knowledge of evil does not make 
evil. An act is necessary to complete its conditions. There 
is no immediate connection between the knower of what is 
evil and the doer. He is guilty who does what he knows to 
be evil. Either anger or cupidity is the customary means of 
arousing a person to perform an evil act. It does not neces- 
sarily follow that one who has knowledge of evil, unless he 
is the victim of anger or cupidity, will do what he knows is 
wrong. To repeat what we have said, the incentives to sin 
are anger and cupidity. To these we may add extreme fear, 
which itself may give rise to cupidity, inasmuch as everyone 
is anxious to avoid what is the cause of his fear. With reason, 
therefore, have we established that the incentives to the 
other vices are anger and cupidity. Let us consider, then, 
whether Eve was aroused to wrong-doing by these incen- 
tives. She was not angry with her consort. She was not 
a victim of cupidity. Again, she merely erred in giving her 
husband to eat of what she had already tasted. Cupidity 
had been, at first responsible for her error in inducing him 
to eat and it was the occasion for the subsequent sin. This 
can be explained in the following way. She was unable to 
desire what she had already eaten and, after eating she 
acquired a knowledge of evil. She ought not, therefore, have 
made her husband a partaker of the evil of which she was 
conscious; neither should she have caused her own husband 
to violate the divine command. She sinned, therefore, with 
forethought, and knowingly made her husband a participant 
in her own wrong-doing. If it were not so, what is related of 
the tree of knowledge of good and evil would be found to 
be in error, if it were established that, after she ate of that 
tree, she was without knowledge of evil. But, if what Scripture 



PARADISE 



313 



says is true, cupidity was the motive of her act. Many, 
however, are of the opinion that she should be excused for 
the reason that, because she loved her husband, she was afraid 
that she would be separated from him. They offer this as 
grounds for her cupidity: namely, that she desired to be 
with her husband. 

Chapter 7 

(35) Still another problem arises. 1 From what source did 
death come to Adam? Was it from the nature of a tree of 
this sort or actually from God? If we ascribe this to the 
nature of the tree, then the fruit of this tree seems to be 
superior to the vivifying power of the breath of God, since 
its fruit had drawn into death's toils him on whom the 
divine breath had bestowed life. If we maintain that God is 
the responsible cause of death, then we can be held to accuse 
Him of inconsistency. We seem to accuse Him of being so 
devoid of beneficence as to be unwilling to pardon when He 
had the power to do so, or of being powerless if He was 
unable to forgive. Let us see, therefore, how this question 
can be resolved. The solution, unless I am mistaken, lies 
in the fact that, since disobedience was the cause of death, 
for that very reason, not God, but man himself, was the 
agent of his own death. If, for example, a physician were 
to prescribe to a patient what he thought should be avoided, 
and if the patient felt that these prohibitions were unneces- 
sary, the physician is not responsible for the patient's death. 
Surely in that case the patient is guilty of causing his own 
death. Hence, God as a good physician forbade Adam to 
eat what would be injurious to him, 

(36) Another point. To know what is good is better than 

1 From Apelles; cf. Harnack, op. cit. 



314 SAINT AMBROSE 

to be ignorant of it. It is fitting that a person who knows 
what is good know, also, what is evil, in order that he may 
know the means to avoid it and, by taking the necessary 
precautions, that he may act with discretion. Again, it is not 
sufficient to know merely what is evil, lest, although you 
know what is evil, you may find yourself deprived of what is 
good. It is best, therefore, that we know both so that, since 
we know what is good, we may avoid evil. Again, from the 
fact that we are aware of evil we may give our preference 
to the charm of what is good. Moreover, we ought to know 
both so that our knowledge may be profound and so that 
we may put in practice what we know, act and acknowledge 
to be in perfect balance. Besides, Scripture points out that 
more is expected of him who has general knowledge of both 
than of him who is ignorant of them. 2 Knowledge of what 
you cannot achieve or avoid is a grievous thing. Grievous, 
too, is knowledge which is not put into practice and into 
operation to its fullest extent. Without knowledge of what 
is harmful or beneficial to a patient and without the power 
of being able to utilize to the best advantage that knowledge, 
a physician is likely to act in such a way as to lose his 
reputation. Hence, knowledge is not salutary unless it is put 
into practice in the best possible way. 

(37) Still another point. Not without reason was the tree 
of knowledge of good and evil grown in the middle of the 
Garden, and the prohibition against it was unnecessary if 
it was grown for each and every man. This tree was 
designed for the use of just one man, who received the 
command that he make use not only of that tree, but of 
the other trees besides. You can find many, even countless, 
instances in which a person can, because of ignorance of 
procedure, suffer real harm. Wealth itself will be found to 
be unprofitable to a rich man if he refuses to act in a 

2 Cf. Luke 13.47,48. 



PARADISE 315 

generous fashion toward the poor. He may shut out the 
needy and deprive them of assistance and, because of his 
superior powers, he may extort for his own purpose what 
belongs to another. The very possession of beauty and of 
physical charm is more likely than deformity to lead one to 
vice. For that reason, therefore, does anyone desire to have 
children who are unsightly rather than handsome? Or desire 
their offspring to be poverty-stricken rather than well-to-do? 
There are many instances of this sort which are not to be 
ascribed to the lack of wisdom in the giver, but to the 
person who misuses the gifts. The fault lies not so much in 
the person who makes the gifts as in the person who makes 
use of them. 



Chapter 8 

(38) Another problem. 1 Did God know that Adam would 
violate His commands? Or was He unaware of it? If He 
did not know, we are faced with a limitation of His divine 
power. If He knew, yet gave a command which He was 
aware would be ignored, it is not God's providence to give 
an unnecessary order. It was in the nature of a superfluous 
act to give to Adam, the first created being, a command 
which He knew would not at all be observed. But God 
does nothing superfluous. Therefore, the words of Scripture 
do not come from God. This is the objection of those who 
do not, by interposing these questions, admit the authen- 
ticity of the Old Testament. But these people are to be 
condemned out of their own mouths. Since these same 
persons concede the authenticity of the New Testament, 
they must be convinced by evidence to believe in the Old. 
If they see that God is consistent in His commands and in 

1 From Apelles. 



316 SAINT AMBROSE 

His deeds, it is clear that they must concede that both 
Testaments are the work of one Author. The following 
example should convince them that a command to one 
who will disobey is not something superfluous or unjust. 
The Lord Himself close Judas, one who, He knew, would 
betray Him. If these men think that he was chosen unwisely, 
they restrict the power of God. But they cannot hold this 
opinion, since Scripture declares: Tor Jesus knew who it 
was who should betray him. 32 These defamers of the Old 
Testament should therefore hold their peace. 

(39) Possible objections on the part of the Gentiles who 
do not admit this evidence stand in need of a response. 
Since the Gentiles demand a rational explanation, here is 
the reason why the Son of God either gave a command to 
one who is going to disobey it or has chosen one who is 
going to betray Him. The Lord Jesus came to save all 
sinners. 3 He was bound to show concern even for the wicked. 
Accordingly, He was bound not to disregard one who was to 
betray Him. He wished that all might take note that in the 
choice even of His betrayer He was offering a sign for the 
salvation of all of us. No injury was done to Adam in that 
he received a command, or to Judas because he was chosen. 
God did not lay it down as a necessary consequence that 
one should disobey and the other should betray Him. Both 
could have abstained from sin if they had guarded what 
they had received. Hence, although He knew that all the 
Jews would not believe, He stated: 'I have not come except 
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel/ 4 The fault is, there- 
fore, not in the one issuing the command; the sin is rather 
in the one who disobeys. God's intent was this: He wanted 
to show to everyone that He willed to give freedom to all 

2 John 6.65. 

3 CL Luke 19.10. 

4 Matt. 15.24. 



PARADISE 317 

mankind. I do not mean to maintain that He did not know 
of the disobedience to come. Rather, I contend that He did 
know, but that He should not for that reason be subject to 
reproach for a betrayer who met death. God should not 
be accused of being the cause why both lapsed. In fact, 
both stand convicted and condemned, because one received 
a command not to fall into sin, and the other was enrolled 
among the Apostles in order that he, as the result of kindness, 
might change his intention to betray. At some time in the 
future when the other Apostles would be found wanting, he 
might well become a source of comfort to all. In effect, 
there would not exist any sin if there were no prohibition. 
Without the existence of sin there would be no such thing 
as wrong-doing or, perhaps, even virtue, which could not 
have any cause for existence or for pre-eminence without 
the aid of unrighteousness to offset it. What is sin, if not 
the violation of divine law and the disobedience to heavenly 
precepts? Not by the ear, but by the mind, do we form a 
judgment regarding injunction from above. But with the 
Word of God before us we are able to formulate opinions on 
what is good and what is evil. One of these we naturally 
understand should be, as evil, avoided, and the other we 
understand has been recommended to us as a good. In 
this respect we Seem to be listening to the very voice of the 
Lord, whereby some things are forbidden and other things 
are advised. If a person does not comply with the injunctions 
which are believed to have been once ordained by God, he 
is considered to be liable to punishment. The commands 
of God are impressed in our hearts by the Spirit of the 
living God. We do not read these orders as if they were 
recorded in ink on a tablet of stone, 5 Hence, in our own 
thought we formulate a law: Tor if the Gentiles who have 
no law do by nature what the law prescribes, those having 

5 2 Cor. 3.3. 



318 SAINT AMBROSE 

no law of this kind are a law unto themselves. They show 
the work of the law written in their hearts. 56 There is 
something, therefore, like the Law of God which exists in 
the hearts of men. 

(40) These same people raise another objection. Instead 
of that command which we said was established in the 
mind of man, they would maintain that this very impression 
in our minds by God was itself the prescription of a divine 
law. The question is raised: Did the Creator of man know 
that man would fall into sin and so implanted those opinions 
of what is good and evil in the mind of man or was He 
unaware that this would happen? If you concede that He 
did not know of it, you attribute to God something alien to 
His majesty. If, on the other hand, you maintain that, 
although God was aware that man would sin, He impressed 
in man's mind a realization of what is good and evil, so 
that he would be unable, because of the admixture of evil, 
to live forever then in one case you imply that God was 
not prescient and in the other that He was not beneficent. 
From this the conclusion is reached that man was not the 
creation of God. We have already stated that these men 
maintain that God had not imposed a command. Now they 
say that man was not created by God, because God did not 
create evil. Man, on the other hand, had a mental con- 
ception of evil, inasmuch as he was enjoined to abstain from 
evil. In this way they venture to assert that there were two 
gods: one who is good; the other, the Creator of man. 
We must follow the lines of their own logic in formulating 
our reply. If they hold that man was not made by God, 
because man is a sinner, and if they recoil from conceding 
this point, lest a good God may not seem to the creator of 
sinners (because they do not believe that God is good who 
made a sinner) then let them declare whether this artificer 

6 Rom. 2.14,15. 



PARADISE 



319 



of man has in their opinion also been made by God? If, as 
they state, this artificer of man was created by God, how 
can it be possible that a God who is good is also the agent 
of evil? If the creator of a sinner is not good, then more 
serious implications result if we postulate the maker of him 
who is the artificer of a sinner. A God who is good is bound 
to prevent the birth of him who shall have to introduce the 
substance of sin. But if they maintain that this artificer was 
not created, than the problem arises as to whether a God 
who is good could or could not in any way prevent the 
growth of evil. If such a God cannot do this, then He is 
powerless. Inasmuch as such inconsistencies follow our line 
of argumentation and since the heretics get involved here, 
also, let us attempt a solution of the problem of why God 
allowed adversity to enter into this world through an artificer 
who either did or did not spring from Him, although He 
had the power to prevent it. 

(41) Accordingly, while still holding that the God who 
is good and the one who is the artificer are one and the 
same, let us make clear what are the provinces of each. We 
should at the same time try to meet the objections of those 
who raise such a question as this: How is it possible that a 
God who is good has permitted not only adversity to enter 
this world but has allowed it, too, to be in such a state of 
disorder? 7 In truth, this objection would be valid only if 
this evil so affected the nature of our soul and the secret 
places of our hearts that riddance was impossible and if, 
again, this poison had left such deep wounds in our hearts 
and souls that medication was of no avail. 8 In fact, this 
grievance of theirs could be more aptly expressed by stating 
that, although God is omnipotent, He has permitted man 
to die. But since God in His pity has reserved for us the 

7 From Apelles. 

8 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.190. 



320 SAINT AMBROSE 

means of obtaining remedy for our sins and still has not rid 
us of all possibilities of contagion, then let us reflect on the 
following points. Would it be an unjust and unreasonable 
act if God, fearful, as it were, of man's frailty and mortality, 
permitted us to be tempted in such wise that, through peni- 
tence for our sins, grace compounded would return once 
more to our hearts? Again, would it be unjust if man, 
conscious and fearful of his own frailty (since he found that 
he could so easily deviate from the orderly path of divine 
commands) and fearful, too, lest he let loose these heavenly 
mandates which like a helm guide his soul would it be 
unjust if man should finally attribute the recovery of the 
helm to divine pity and by his. safe return acquire some 
grace as well? 

Chapter 9 

(42) Now let us investigate the reason why God con- 
sidered that a command should be given concerning the 
two classes of trees: the one to be eaten and the other which 
it was forbidden to eat. Thus, He laid down to man injunc- 
tions on the ways of attaining that wonderful and happy life, 
following which he might not have to suffer death. There 
are some who think that is was totally inappropriate for the 
Creator of heaven and earth and of all things to lay down 
that command and that it was definitely unsuited to the 
inhabitants of Paradise, because life there was like that of 
the angels. And so we can conclude that the food provided 
for eating there was not earthly and corruptible, because 
those who do not drink or eat 'will be as the angels in heaven. 3 
There is no merit, therefore, in food, because food does not 
commend us to God. Neither is there great danger therein, 
because Vhat goes into the mouth does not defile a man, 
but it is what comes out of the mouth. 31 Undoubtedly, then, 

1 Matt. 22.30; 15.11. 



PARADISE 321 

it would appear that the precept [is quite unworthy] of such 
a great Creator unless you take this food to mean prophetic 
food, because as a great reward the Lord makes this promise 
to His saints: 'Behold my servants shall eat and you shall 
be hungry.' 2 This is the food that makes for eternal life. 
Whoever is deprived of this will suffer death, since the Lord 
Himself is the living and heavenly Bread which gives life to 
this world. Hence He speaks: 'Unless you eat my flesh and 
drink my blood you shall not have life eternal/ 3 The bread 
was, therefore, meant for a certain person. Instructions were 
given that it should be eaten be the inhabitants of Paradise 
Who is that person? We are told who that person is: 'Man ate 
the bread of angels. 54 The bread is good if you do the will 
of God. Do you wish to know how good that bread was? 
The Son of God Himself eats of that bread of which He 
says: 'My food is to do the will of my father who is in 
heaven/ 5 

(43) Again, let us see why the Lord God said to Adam: 
*Ye shall die the death.' What is the difference between 
saying 'ye shall die 3 and 'ye shall die the death'? We ought 
to point out that there is nothing superfluous in the com- 
mand of God. Here is my solution. Since life and death are 
contradictory ideas, in unaffected language we say 'we live 
in life' and 'die in death.' But, if you wish, since life causes 
life, to double the force of the two concepts, the phrase 
*he lives a life' is found in legal documents, and, since 
death causes death, there is the statement: 'He shall die the 
death.' 6 These expressions are not redundant, for life is 
related to death and death to life, because everyone living 

2 Isa. 65.13. 

3 John 6.50; cf. 6.54. 

4 Ps. 77.25. 

5 John 4.34. 

6 Ezech. 33.14-16. 



322 SAINT AMBROSE 

dies while he is alive and lives when he dies. We find, there- 
fore four categories: to live in life, to die in death, to die in 
life, to live in death. Since such is the case, we should put 
aside prejudices due to use and custom, for usage prescribes 
that the act of dying should be said without distinction of 
him who dies by death and of him who does so by his life. 
Accordingly, the Lord selects two of these four distinctive 
phrases so as to say that the living live, with qualifications 
as to whether well or ill, and the dying die, without a seeming 
difference between a good death and a bad one. There is no 
precise difference in fact between the kind of life or death 
here referred to. It could include that of irrational creatures 
or of tiny infants. 

(44) Putting aside, therefore, conceptions due to common 
usage, let us reflect on the meaning of 'to live in life' and 
*to die in death' and also 'to live in death' and 'to die in 
life. 5 I believe that, in accord with the Scriptures, 'to live 
in life 5 signifies a wonderful life of happiness and that it 
seems to point toward an experience of life's natural functions 
joined and, by participation, mingled with the grace of a 
blessed life. This concept, 'to live in life,' means c to live in 
virtue, 3 to bring about in the life of this body of ours a 
participation in the life of blessedness. On the other hand, 
what does 'to die in death' mean if not the disintegration of 
the body at the time of death, when the flesh is devoid 
of its customary function of carrying on life and the soul 
is unable to partake in life eternal? There is also the person 
who 'dies in life,' that is to say, one who is alive in body 
but, because of his acts, is dead. These are the people 
who, as the Prophet says: 'Go down alive into hell,' and 
she of whom the Apostle speaks: 'For she is dead while 
she is still alive/ 7 There remains the fourth category, for 

7 Ps. 54.16; 1 Tim, 5.6. 



PARADISE 323 

there are those who 'live in death' like the holy martyrs 
who give up their lives so that they may live. The flesh 
dies, but what is good does survive. Far from us, there- 
fore, be the thought of living as participants in death. 
On the contrary, we should face death and thus become 
sharers in life. The saint does not desire to be a participant 
in this life of ours when he states: 'To be dissolved and 
be with Christ. 58 This has been much better stated by 
another: 'Woe to me that my sojourning has been pro- 
longed,' 9 in grief certainly that he is limited by the fragility 
of this life, since he hopes for a share in life eternal. 
Wherefore I can, on the other hand, state that, although 
'to live in life' is a good thing, 'to live for life' would 
be of doubtful benefit. One can speak of 'living for life, 5 
that is, for the life of eternity with its struggle with the 
life of the body. One can also speak of 'living for life 5 in 
another sense. Anyone, even a pious person, can have a 
desire for this corporeal life of ours. We can take the 
example of one who thinks that he ought to live so virtu- 
ously as to arrive by his good actions at a ripe old age. 
Many people who are in weak health, but who still find 
life a pleasureable thing, are in this category. 

(45) Now that we have examined the meaning of the 
phrase, 'to live for life,' let us now turn attention to the 
significance of the phrases, 'to die for death' and 'to live 
for death,' for it is possible to conceive of people who 
'die for death' and who 'live for life.' For the person who 
'dies for or to death' is one who so lives as to live for 
the sake of his own soul, because he is not subject to 
death. We mean by this one who has been loosed from 
the bonds of grievous death and one who is not bound 
by the chains of death eternal He is dead to death, that 

8 Phil. 1.23. 

9 Ps. 119.5. 



324 SAINT AMBROSE 

is, he is dead to sin. He is dead to punishment for whom 
living is contrary to punishment, that is, when a person 
lives for punishment he lives for death. Again, one who 
dies for punishment dies for death. There is also the case 
of one who, although placed in this life, dies for life. Such 
was the situation of the Apostle who said: It is now no 
longer I that live, but Christ in me. 510 To sin he is dead, 
but he lives for God, that is, death in him is dead, but 
living in him is that life which is the Lord Jesus. Good, 
therefore, is the life of those who live for God and wicked 
the life of those who live for sin. There is also a middle 
course of life, as in the case of other living creatures, for 
which we may cite the Scriptural passage: 'Let the earth 
bring forth the living creature in its kind. 511 There is also 
the life of the dead: The God of Abraham, the God of 
Isaac and the God of Jacob/ because 'He is not the God 
of the dead but of the living. 312 There are those who par- 
take somewhat in both lives, that of the living and of the 
dead, of whom the Apostle speaks: 'If ye have died with 
him, ye shall also live with him.' 13 The same Apostle has 
said: Tor if we have been united with him in the likeness 
of death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection 
also. For we know that our old self has been crucified with 
him, in order that the body of sin may be destroyed, that 
we may no longer be slaves to sin, for he who is dead is 
aquitted of sin. 514 Just as we have said that there are many 
forms of life, so, too, we may discover many forms of death. 
An evil death is recorded in the words, 'The soul that 
sinneth, the same shall die.' 15 The usual meaning of death 

10 Gal. 2.20. 

11 Gen. 1.24. 

12 Exod. 3.6; Luke 20.37; Mark. 12.26. 

13 2 Tim. 2.11. 

14 Rom. 6.5-8. 

15 Ezech. 18.20. 



PARADISE 325 

appears when we say that a person lived so many years and 
was laid among his fathers. 16 There is the meaning of death 
as we have it in the sacrament of baptism: Tor we were 
buried with him by means of baptism into death. 5 Elsewhere 
we read: Tor if we have died with Christ, we believe also 
that we shall live together with him. 517 You see how the 
word 'death' is subject to manifold interpretation, but that 
this life here is ours to contend with. 



Chapter 10 

(46) Still another question arises, that concerning the 
saying of the Lord: 'It is not good for man to be alone. 51 
Recognize the fact, first of all, that, when God created man 
from the slime of the earth, He did not add: 'God saw that 
it was good,' 2 as He did in the case of each of His works. 
If He had said at that time that the creation of man was 
good, then the other statement that 'it is not good' would 
be a contradiction in terms, although He had said that the 
creation of what preceded the formation of man was good. 
That was the situation at the time of the creation of Adam. 
But, when He perceived that man and woman were joined 
together in creation, He did not treat each even then in a 
special manner, for He soon after states: 'God saw that all 
he had ever made was very good. 3 The meaning is clear. 
The creation of both man and woman is considered to be 
good. 

(47) From this question another problem arises. How 

16 Cf. Acts 13.36. 

17 Rom. 6.4,8. 

1 Gen. 2.18. 

2 Gen. 1.14. 

3 Gen. 1.31. 



326 SAINT AMBROSE 

did it happen that, when Adam alone was created, it was 
not said that it was good, but when a woman also was made, 
then are we to understand that everything was good? Whereas 
God in one case commended the whole of creation, as well 
as every creature in it (including man who is held to be a 
part of nature), a special reference to man did not then 
seem necessary. Wherefore, when Adam alone was created, 
an assertion that this work was good was not thought to 
be by any means a fitting climax to a satisfactory achieve- 
ment. It was said, moreover, that it was not good for man 
to be alone. Yet we know that Adam did not commit sin 
before woman was created. However, after creation, she 
was the first to disobey the divine ^command and even allured 
her husband to sin. If, therefore, the woman is responsible 
for the sia, how then can her accession be considered a 
good? But, if you consider that the universe is in the care 
of God, then you will discover this fact, namely, that the 
Lord must have gained more pleasure for Himself in being 
responsible for all creation than condemnation from us for 
providing the basis for sin. Accordingly, the Lord declared 
that is was not good for man to be alone, because the human 
race could not have been propagated from man alone. God 
preferred the existence of more than one whom He would be 
able to save than to have to confine this possibility to one 
man who was free from error. Inasmuch as He is the 
Author of both man and woman, He came into this world 
to redeem sinners. Finally, He did not permit Cain, a man 
accused of parricide, to perish before he brought forth 
sons, 4 For the sake, therefore, of the successive generations 
of men it followed that woman had to be joined to man. 
Thus we must interpret the very words of God when He 
said the it was not good for man to be alone. If the woman 

4 Gen. 4.15-17. 



PARADISE 327 

was to be the first one to sin, the fact that she was the one 
destined to bring forth redemption must not be excluded 
from the operations of Divine Providence. Although 'Adam 
was not deceived, the woman was deceived and was in sin. 
Yet woman, we are told, 'will be saved by childbearing, 55 
in the course of which she generated Christ. 

(48) Not without significance, too, is the fact that woman 
was made out of the rib of Adam. She was not made of 
the same earth with which he was formed, in order that we 
might realize that the physical nature of both man and 
woman is identical and that there was one source for the 
propagation of the human race. For that reason, neither 
was man created together with a woman, nor were two 
men and two women created at the beginning, but first a 
man and after that a woman. God willed it that human 
nature be established as one. Thus, from the very inception 
of the human stock He eliminated the possibility that many 
disparate natures should arise. He said: 'Let us make him 
a helper like himself.' 6 We understand that to mean a helper 
in the generation of the human family a really good helper. 
If we take the word 'helper' in a good sense, then the 
woman's co-operation turns out to be something of major 
import in the process of generation, just as the earth by 
receiving, confining, and fostering the seed causes it to grow 
and produce fruit in time. In that respect, therefore, woman 
is a good helper even through in an inferior position. We 
find examples of this in our own experience. We see how 
men in high and important offices often enlist the help of 
men who are below them in rank and esteem, 

5 1 Tim. 2.14. 

6 Gen. 2.18. 



328 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 11 

(49) Examine, now, the reason why God had by this 
time created out of the earth all the beasts of the field and 
all the birds of the air' and brought them to Adam to see 
what he would call them. How account for the fact that 
God brought merely the beasts of the field and the birds of 
the air to Adam? Animals were there, we know, each 
according to its kind. And so it is related further on: 
'Adam named all the animals and all the beasts of the 
field, but he found no helper like himself.' 1 How can we 
explain this other than by saying that the untamed beasts 
and the birds of the air were brought to man by divine 
power, while man himself held power over the beasts that 
were tame and domesticated? The former lay within the 
province of God's activity. The latter were due to the dili- 
gence of man. Besides this, there is a reason why everything 
was brought to Adam. In this way he would be able to see 
that nature in every aspect is constituted of two sexes: 
male and female. Following these observations, he would 
become aware that association with a woman was a necessity 
of his lot. 

(50) 'And God cast Adam into a deep sleep and he slept.' 
What does the phrase 'deep sleep' signify? Does it not mean 
that when we contemplate a conjugal union we seem to be 
turning our eyes gradually in the direction of God's kingdom? 
Do we not seem, as we enter into a vision of this world, to 
partake a little of things divine, while we find our repose in 
the midst of what is secular and mundane? Hence, after the 
statement, 'He cast Adam into a deep sleep and he slept,' 
there follows: The rib which God took from Adam he 
built into a woman.' 2 The word 'built' is well chosen in 

1 Gen. 2.19,20. 

2 Gen. 2.21,22. 



PARADISE 329 

speaking of the creation of a woman because a household, 
comprising man and wife, seems to point toward a state 
of full perfection. One who is without a wife is regarded as 
being without a home. As man is considered to be more 
skilful in public duties, so woman is esteemed to be more 
adaptable to domestic ministrations. Reflect on the fact that 
He did not take a part from Adam's soul but a rib from 
his body, that is to say, not soul from a soul, but 'bone of 
my bone and flesh of my flesh' 3 will this woman be called. 

(51) Thus we have made clear the cause of the generation 
of man. But many who reflect deeply on this question are 
disturbed by another problem. How explain the fact that 
animals and beasts of the field and birds of the air were in 
Paradise, if at the beginning God bestowed this great gift 
to men, namely, the privilege of living there and of expect- 
ing afterward that, as a reward of merit, all just men should 
be restored to that place? Hence, many hold that by Paradise 
is meant the soul of man and that, while man was placed 
there as a worker and guardian, certain seeds of virtue 
sprouted forth. This may be taken to mean that the mind of 
man, whose virtue it is to cultivate the soul intensively, not 
only performs its appropriate function, but also acts as a 
custodian of the work accomplished. The beasts of the field 
and the birds of the air which were brought to Adam are 
our irrational senses, because beasts and animals represent 
the diverse emotions of the body, whether of the more violent 
kind or even of the more temperate. What else are we to 
consider the birds of the air if not as representations of our 
idle thoughts which, like winged creatures, flit around our 
souls and frequently lead us by their varied motions now in 
one direction, now in another? Wherefore our faculty of per- 
ception, which in Greek is represented by the word ata9T]aic; 3 

3 Gen. 2.23. 



330 SAINT AMBROSE 

constitutes the most congenial aid to the work of our minds. 
Except for our intellect [vouq,] the mind has been unable 
to find another faculty so like itself. 

(52) Perhaps you may argue that God is Himself the 
Author of error, because He also placed in such a Paradise 
entities such as these I mean the passions of the body and 
the vanity of thoughts that are fleeting and empty. Take 
note of what He says: 'Have dominion over the fish of the 
sea, the birds of the air and all the animals that crawl upon 
the earth/ 4 You see that He granted to you the power of 
being able to discern by the application of sober logic the 
species of each and every object, in order that you may be 
induced to form a judgment on all of them. God called 
them all to your attention, so that you might realize that 
your mind is superior to all of them. Why have you now 
willed to make part of yourself and to link close to you what 
you have discovered to be a totally alien substance? God 
surely has given you a sense of perception, whereby you can 
know things in general and can form a judgment about them. 
Because you were unable to observe God's commands you 
were deservedly ejected from that fertile Garden. God came 
to the realization that you were weak and could not dis- 
criminate. Hence, He spoke to men in their weakness. 'Do 
not judge that you may not be judged. 35 He bade you, there- 
fore, to be obedient to His imposed command, because He 
knew that your judgment was weak. If you had not disre- 
garded this order, you would never had run the risk of 
wavering in your judgment. And, since you wished to form 
a judgment, for that reason He added: 'Indeed Adam has 
become like one of us, knowing good and evil.' 6 You desired 
to claim judgment as your right. Hence you ought not to 

4 Gen. 1.25. 

5 Matt. 7.1, 

6 Gen. 3.22, 



PARADISE 331 

oppose the penalty for misguided judgment. Nevertheless, 
He placed you in such a position outside Paradise that the 
recollection of it may never leave you. 

(53) Hence the just are caught up into Paradise, just as 
Paul 'was caught up into paradise and heard secret words 
that man may not repeat.' 7 And if by the vigor of your 
mind you are caught up from the first heaven to the second 
and from the second heaven to the third, we can explain 
it in this way. Each and every man is first of all corporeal; 
secondly, he is of a sensual nature; and thirdly, he is spiritual 
in that he is carried to the third heaven to behold the bril- 
liance of spiritual grace. 'The sensual man does not perceive 
the things that are of the Spirit.' 8 For that reason the ascent 
into the third heaven is necessary for him in order that he 
may be caught up into Paradise. At this stage, without 
incurring danger, you will be caught up, in order that you 
may be able to pass judgment on all things, because 'the 
spiritual man judges all things and he himself is judged by 
no man.' 9 Perchance, although still infirm, you will hear 
secret words that man may not repeat. Forbear to reveal 
anything and keep in your heart what you shall hear. Paul 
the Apostle kept these words in his heart lest he fall and for 
a certainty lead others into sin. Or perhaps Paul used the 
words 'that man may not repeat' 10 because he was still in 
the body, that is to say, because he saw the passions of this 
body of ours and because he saw the law of his flesh 'warring 
against the law of his mind. 511 I prefer to take the meaning 
in this sense, lest the question of future danger should 
seem to be disregarded. That would imply freedom during 
our lifetime from the anxiety and dread of snares which 

7 2 Cor. 12.4,5. 

8 1 Cor. 2.14. 

9 1 Cor. 2.15. 

10 2 Cor. 12.4. 

11 Rom. 7.23. 



332 SAINT AMBROSE 

might lead to sin in the future. Whoever, therefore, shall 
reach upward into Paradise by the exercise of virtue will 
hear those hidden and secret words of God. He shall hear, 
too, the Lord speaking as to the repentant thief who aban- 
doned his life of thievery for one of faith: This day thou 
shalt be with me in paradise.' 12 



Chapter 12 

(54) 'Now the serpent was more cunning than any of the 
beasts of the field which the Lord had made. The serpent 
said to the woman: Did God say, you shall not eat of any 
tree of the garden?' 1 In the statement 'the serpent was more 
cunning 5 you understand to whom reference is made. This is 
our Adversary, whose wisdom is of this world. Gratification 
of pleasure has been fittingly called wisdom, because it is 
called the wisdom of the flesh as in the statement, 'The 
wisdom of this flesh is hostile to God.' 2 The seekers after 
pleasure are shrewd in their choice of means for its gratifi- 
cation. If you understand, therefore, gratification of pleasure 
to be, in fact, an act contrary to the divine command and 
hostile to our senses, this is in accord with what Paul states: 
*I see another law in my members warring against the law 
of my mind and making me prisoner in the law of sin. 3 If 
you ascribe this to the Devil, what other cause of enmity is 
there except envy? As Solomon says: By the envy of the 
devil death came into the world.' 4 The cause of envy was 
the happiness of man placed in Paradise, because the Devil 

12 Luke 23.43. 

1 Gen. 3.1. 

2 Rom. 8.7. 

3 Rom. 7.23. 

4 Wisd. 2.24. 



PARADISE 333 

could not brook the favors received by man. His envy was 
aroused because man, though formed in slime, was chosen 
to be an inhabitant of Paradise. The Devil began to reflect 
that man was an inferior creature, yet had hopes of an 
eternal life, whereas he, a creature of superior nature, had 
fallen and had become part of this mundane existence. This 
is the substance of his invidious reflection: 'Will this inferior 
acquire what I was unable to keep? Will he leave the earth 
and attain heaven, whereas I have fallen to earth thrust 
down from heaven? I have many ways and means by which 
to deceive man. He was made of slime, earth is his mother, 
and he is involved in things corruptible. Although of superior 
nature, his soul is nevertheless subject to temptation, since 
it exists in the prison house of the body witness my own 
experience in being unable to avoid sin. This, therefore, is 
my first approach, namely, to deceive him while he is desir- 
ous of improving his condition. In this way an attempt will 
be made to arouse his ambition. The next approach is by 
way of the flesh, promising fulfillment of all his desires. 
Finally, how else can I appear to be wiser than all men if 
not by the exercise of cunning and fraud in my warfare 
of entrenchment against man?' Accordingly, he contrived 
not to attack Adam first. Rather, he aimed to circumvent 
Adam by means of the woman. He did not accost the man 
who had in his presence received the heavenly command. 
He accosted her who had learned of it from her husband 
and who had not received from God the command which 
was to be observed. There is no statement that God spoke 
to the woman. We know that he spoke to Adam. Hence we 
must conclude that the command was communicated through 
Adam to the woman. 

(55) The nature of the temptation presented on this 
occasion is now clear. In addition to this, there are other 
occasions when many other kinds of temptations are in store 



334 SAINT AMBROSE 

for us. Some of these come from the Prince of this world, 
who has vomited into this world what might be called 
poisonous wisdom, so that men believe the false to be true 
and are emotionally carried away by mere appearance. The 
Enemy's attack is not always in the open. There are certain 
powers who put on the external form of what is desirable 
and gratifying so as to pour into our thoughts the poison of 
their iniquities. From this source come those sins which arise 
from indulgence in pleasures or from some infirmity of the 
mind. There are still other powers who may be said to 
wrestle with us, as the Apostle says: Tor our wrestling is 
not against flesh and blood but against the Principalities 
and Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against 
the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.' 5 They wish by 
this belligerency of theirs to break us and, so to speak, to 
force out the breath of life from our bodies. Wherefore, like 
a good athlete, Paul knew how to parry the blows of the 
opposing powers and even to strike them as they advanced 
to the attack. Hence he says: 1 strike with my fists, not as 
one beating the air,' 6 And so like a good athlete he merited 
the crown of victory. 7 The temptations of the Devil, then, 
are manifold. For that reason he is believed to be a 
deadly, double-tongued serpent, doing the Devil's work by 
saying one thing with the tongue and by harboring other 
thoughts in his mind. There are other servants of the Devil 
who aim at us poisonous shafts of word and thought, such 
as are described by the Lord: 'You brood of vipers, how 
can you speak good things when you are evil?' 8 

(56) 'And the serpent said to the woman: Did God say, 
you shall not eat of any tree of the garden? The woman 
answered the serpent: Of the fruit of any tree in the garden 

5 Eph. 6.12. 

6 l, Cor. 9.26. 

7 2 Tim. 4.8. 

8 Matt. 12.34. 



PARADISE 335 

we shall eat, but of the tree in the middle of the garden, 
God said, you shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, 
lest you die. 59 Although you are aware that the serpent is 
wiser that all creatures, his cunning is especially noticeable 
here. As he sets his snares, he pretends to give utterance to 
the words of God, for God had already said: Trom every 
tree of the garden you may eat, but from the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil you must not eat, for the day 
you eat of it you must die, 510 The serpent inserted a false- 
hood in questioning the woman thus: 'Did God say, you 
shall not eat of any tree? 5 Whereas God had actually said: 
Trom every tree of the garden you may eat, but from one 
tree you must not eat, 5 meaning, by that, the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil which was not to be tasted. We 
need not wonder at the manner of deception. Deceit accom- 
panies any effort at ensnaring an individual. The serpent's 
question was not without its purpose. But the woman's 
reply will indicate that there was nothing questionable in 
the command of God: c Of the fruit of all the trees in the 
garden we may eat, but of the fruit of the tree in the middle 
of the garden, God said, you shall not eat of it neither shall 
you touch it, lest you die.' There was nothing inexact about 
the command itself. The error lay in the report of the 
command. The Scriptural passage under discussion is self- 
explanatory. We realize that we ought not to make any 
addition to a command even by way of instruction. Any 
addition or qualification of a command is in the nature of 
a falsification. The simple, original form of a command 
should be preserved or the facts should be duly set before 
us. It frequently happens that a witness adds something of 
himself to a relation of facts. In this way, by the injection 
of an untruth, confidence in his testimony is wholly shattered. 

9 Gen. 3.1. 
10 Gen. Z16. 



336 SAINT AMBROSE 

No addition therefore not even a good one is called for. 
What is, therefore, at first sight objectionable in the addition 
made by the woman: 'Neither shall you touch anything of 
it'? God did not say this, but, rather: 'you must not eat -' 
Still, we have here something which leads to error. There 
are two possibilities to the addition she made: Either it i 
superfluous or because of this personal contribution she has 
made God's command only partly intelligible. John in his 
writings has made this clear: 'If anyone shall add to them, 
God will add unto him the plagues that are written in this 
book. And if anyone shall take away from these words of 
the book of this prophecy, God will take away his portion 
from the tree of life. 511 If this is true in this case, how much 
truer is it that nothing should be taken away from the 
commands laid down by God ! From this springs the primary 
violation of the command. And many believe that this was 
Adam's fault not the woman's. They reason that Adam in, 
his desire to make her more cautious had said to the woman 
that God had given the additional instruction: 'Neither 
shall you touch it.' We know that it was not Eve, but Adam, 
who received the command from God, because the woman 
had not yet been created. Scripture does not reveal the exact 
words that Adam used when he disclosed to her the nature 
and content of the command. At all events, we understand 
that the substance of the command was given to the woman 
by the man. What opinions others have offered on this 
subject should be taken into consideration. It seems to me, 
however, that the initial violation and deceit was due to 
the woman. Although there may appear to be an element 
of uncertainty in deciding which of the two was guilty, we 
can discern the sex which was liable first to do wrong. Add 
to this the fact that she stands convicted in court whose 
previous error is afterward revealed. The woman is respon- 

11 Apoc. 22.18,19. 



PARADISE 



337 



sible for the man's error and not vice-versa. Hence Paul 
says : 'Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived 
and was in sin/ 12 

(57) Now let us examine another question relative to the 
addition which was made to the command. Does this addition 
in itself seem to be objectionable? If the words, 'neither 
shall you touch it/ are actually advantageous and tend to 
put one on his guard, why did not God expressly forbid 
this even to the point of seemingly permitting it by not 
forbidding it? Wherefore, both points must be examined; 
namely, the reasons why He neither permitted it nor forbade 
it. Some raise the question: Why did He not order that the 
object which He had made should be seen and touched? 
But, when you realize that there was in that tree the 
knowledge of good and evil, you can understand that He 
did not wish you to touch what is evil. Sufficient is it for us, 
using the words of the Lord, f to watch Satan fall as lightning 
from heaven/ 13 and giving to his sons not the meat of life, 
but that of night and darkness, as it is written: 'He gave 
him to be meat for the people of the Ethiopians.' 14 Thus 
far on the subject of the reason why He did not command 
the tree to be touched. Here are the reasons, as I understand 
them, why God did not prohibit this act. There are many 
things which do us harm, if we make up our minds to touch 
them before we know what they are. We often learn, in 
fact, by experience to be resigned if we know beforehand 
that a certain food or drink is bitter. You learn to be tolerant 
if you believe that what is bitter is beneficial, lest your sudden 
realization of its bitterness may offend you and cause you 
to reject what may prove to be salutary. It is advantageous, 
therefore, first to have knowledge of this bitter quality, so 

12 1 Tim. 2.14, 

13 Luke 10.18. 

14 Ps. 73.14. 



338 SAINT AMBROSE 

that you may not be squeamish and that you may realize 
what is good for you. These are examples of what may harm 
us just to a slight degree. From the discussion which now 
follows, take warning of what may cause us more serious 
damage unless we make provision against it. 

(58) Take the case of the Gentile who is eager for the 
faith. He becomes a catechumen and desires a greater 
fullness of doctrine to strengthen his faith. See to it that in 
his willingness to learn he is not exposed to false doctrine. 
Take care that he does not learn from Photinus or from 
Arius or from Sabellius, See that he does not hand himself 
over to teachers of this sort who would attract him by their 
airs of authority, so that his untrained mind, impressed by 
the weight of such august prestige, will be unable to discri- 
minate the right from the wrong, He should first, therefore, 
determine with the eyes of his mind what are the logical 
sequences, Let him note where life exists by touching the 
life-giving qualities of holy Scripture, so that no interpreter 
will stand in his way. Sabellius reads for him: *I am in the 
Father and the Father in me, 315 and says that means one 
Person. Photinus reads that 'there is one Mediator between 
God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus.' And elsewhere: 
'Why do you wish to kill me,, a man? 516 Arius, too, read 
the following: Tor' the Father is greater than I. 317 The 
reading is clear, but the catechumen first ought to reflect on 
the matter in his own mind, so as to discover the real 
meaning of these passages. He is influenced by the prestige 
of his teachers. It would have been more to his advantage 
if he had not investigated at all rather than have come upon 
such an instructor. But the Gentile, too, if he takes up the 
Scriptures, reads: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth/ Again: If 

15 John 14.10. 

16 1 Tim. 2.5; John 8,40. 

17 John 14,28. 



PARADISE 339 

thy right hand is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off.' 18 
He does not understand the sense of this. He is not aware 
of the secret meaning of the divine words. He is worse off 
than if he had not read at all. Hence he has furnished a 
lesson to these men on how they should have investigated 
the meaning of the Word of God. A careful, not a super- 
ficial, examination of the context of the passage should be 
made. It is written: 'What was from the beginning, what 
we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we 
have looked upon and our hands have investigated: of the 
Word of Life. And we have seen and now testify and 
announce to you.' 19 You see how he investigated, so to speak, 
with his hands the Word of God and -afterward announced 
it. Hence, the Word would not perhaps have caused injury 
to Adam and Eve if they had first touched and handled it, 
as it were, with the hands of the mind. Those who are 
infirm can by careful examination and handling investigate 
the nature of each and every object which they do not 
understand, Certainly, those weak first parents of ours should 
have studied beforehand the problem presented to them: 
How were they to touch the tree in which they knew there 
was knowledge of evil? The knowledge of evil, in fact, can 
frequently be of advantage to us. Wherefore we read in 
the oracular words of Scripture of the wiles of the Devil, 
so that we learn how we can escape his arts. We should be 
aware of his temptations, not that we may follow his lead, 
but that by instruction we may avoid these pitfalls. 

(59) At this point there are some who doubt whether God 
meant that the fruit of every tree should be eaten this 
injunction to include every tree, inclusive of the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil or whether, in fact, He referred 
to every tree, but excluded only the tree of knowledge of 

18 Lev. 24.20; Matt. 5,30. 

19 John 1.1,2. 



340 SAINT AMBROSE 

good and evil? These people are of the opinion that this 
matter is not without significance, because, although the fruit 
of this tree is harmful in itself, still, if it were combined 
with that of the other trees, it could not be injurious. They 
cite as example of this fact the belief that an antidote can 
be obtained from the body of a serpent which, being poison- 
ous since it is extracted from a serpent, is harmful when 
taken alone, but when mixed with other drugs has medicinal 
properties. The knowledge of good and evil, also, if one 
possesses wisdom that is ever an aid toward survival and if 
one reaches out after the other types of virtue, is considered 
to be of no inconsiderable value. On that account, therefore, 
many hold that we can even understand the reason why 
God made this prohibition. He did not wish that tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil should be eaten alone and not 
in combination with the fruit of the others. He did not pro- 
hibit this if the other trees are taken into consideration at 
the same time. Wherefore what God said to Adam is cited: 
'Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, 
of the tree which alone I commanded you not to eat/ 20 This 
would seem to offer an occasion for disputation. In the 
preceding passage the woman might well have not made 
any reply to the serpent's question: 'Did God say, you shall 
not eat of any tree of the garden?' But she answered: 'Of 
the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, you shall not 
eat of it.' In this incident, as she was on the point of 
sinning, the woman's faith may appear to have been weak. 
Moreover, I shall not despoil Adam of all the virtues, so 
that he would appear to have attained no virtue in Paradise 
and would seem to have eaten nothing from the other trees, 
but had fallen into sin before he had obtained any fruit. 
I shall, therefore, not despoil Adam lest I may despoil the 
whole human race, which is innocent before it acquires the 

20 Gen. 3.11. 



PARADISE 341 

capacity to know good and evil. Not without reason was 
it said: 'Unless you turn and become like this child, you 
shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.' 21 The child, 
when he is scolded, does not retaliate. When he is struck, he 
does not strike back. He is not conscious of the allurements 
of ambition and self-seeking. 

(60) The truth seems to be, then, that He commanded 
the tree not to be eaten, not even along with the fruit of 
the other trees. Knowledge of gpod, in fact, although of no 
use to a perfect man, is, on the other hand, of no value to a 
man who is imperfect. Paul speaks of himself as imperfect: 
'Not that I have already obtained this or already have been 
made perfect, but I press on hoping that I may lay hold 
of it already/ 22 Hence the Lord says to the imperfect: 'Do 
not judge that you may not be judged.' 23 Knowledge is, 
therefore, of no use to the imperfect. Hence we read: 'I 
did not know sin unless the Law had said, thou thalt not 
lust/ And further on we read: Tor without the Law sin 
is dead.' 24 What advantage is it to me to know what I cannot 
avoid? What avails it for me to know that the law of my 
flesh assails me? Paul is assailed and sees 'the law of his flesh 
warring against that of his mind and making him prisoner 
to the law of sin.' He does not rely on himself, but by the 
grace of Christ is confident of his 'deliverance from the 
body of death.' 25 Do you think that anyone with knowledge 
of sin can avoid it? Paul says: Tor I do not the good that 
I wish, but the evil that I do not wish.' 26 Do you consider 
that this knowledge which adds to the reproach of sin can 
be of help to man? Granted, however, that the perfect man 

21 Matt 18.3. 

22 Phil. 3.12. 

23 Matt. 7,1. 

24 Rom. 7.7,8. 

25 Rom. 7.23,24. 

26 Rom. 7.19. 



342 SAINT AMBROSE 

is unable to sin. God foresaw all men in the person of 
Adam. Hence it was not fitting that the human race in 
general should have a knowledge of good and evil a 
knowledge which he could not utilize because of the weak- 
ness of the flesh. 

Chapter 13 

(61) Let us learn, therefore, that the temptations of the 
Devil are full of guile. Of the things that he promised, 
scarcely one of them seems to be true. He contrived false- 
hoods, as we can see if we read elsewhere: 'And the serpent 
said to the woman, you shall not die. 5 Here we have one 
falsehood, for man, who followed the promises of the serpent, 
is subject to death. Hence he added: Tor God knows that 
when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened.' This alone is 
true, because further on we read: They both ate and their 
eyes were opened.' 1 But the truth is that as a result of this 
act harm followed. Hence, opening one's eyes is not to every- 
one's advantage, for it is written: They will see and will 
not see. 32 But the serpent was quick to attack a falsehood 
to his statement, when he said: 'And you will be like gods, 
knowing good and evil.' 3 Hence you may note that the 
serpent is the author of idolatry, for his cunning seems to 
be responsible for man's error in introducing many gods. 
His deceit lay in stating that they will be like gods, for not 
only have men ceased to be like gods, but even those men 
who were like gods (to whom it was spoken, 'I have said 
you are gods 54 ) have fallen from His favor. 

(62) 'And the woman saw that the tree was good for 

1 Gen. 3.4-6. 

2 Isa. 6.9. 

3 Gen. 3.5. 

4 Ps. 81.6. 



PARADISE 



343 



food, pleasing to the eyes and beautiful to gaze upon.' 5 She 
showed her weakness in passing judgment on what she had 
not tasted. It is not easy under any circumstance to make 
such an assumption without deep reflection and a careful 
examination of the facts. e She took of its fruit/ we are told, 
'and ate it and also gave some to her husband and they 
both ate.' 6 Omission is made, and rightly so, of the deception 
of Adam, since he fell by his wife's fault and not because 
of his own. 

(63) 'And their eyes were opened,' we are told, 'and they 
realized that they were naked.' 7 They were naked, it is true, 
before this time, but they were not devoid of the garments 
of virtue. They were naked because of the purity of their 
character and because nature knows nothing of the cincture 
of deceit. Now, on the other hand, the mind of man is 
veiled in many folds of deception. When, therefore, they saw 
that they had been despoiled of the purity and simplicity of 
their untainted nature, they began to look for objects made 
by the hand of man wherewith to cover the nakedness of 
their minds and hearts. They added gratification so as to 
increase the idle pleasures of this world, sewing, as it were, 
leaf upon leaf in order to conceal and cover the organ of gen- 
eration. But how explain the fact that Adam had his bodily 
eyes closed, whereas he was able to see all living creatures and 
confer names upon them? Well, just as by way of an inner 
and deeper knowledge they were able to realize, not that 
they were without garments, but that the protective covering 
of virtue was no longer theirs. 

(64) 'So they sewed fig-leaves together and made 
themselves coverings.' 8 We are taught by the content of holy 

5 Gen. 3.6. 

6 Ibid. 

7 Gen. 3.7. 

8 Ibid. 



SAINT AMBROSE 

Scripture how we should interpret the meaning of the word 
'fig' in this passage. Scripture relates that the saints are those 
who find rest beneath the vine and the fig. 9 Solomon has 
said: 'Who plants the fig tree and does not eat the fruit 
thereof?' 10 Yet the owner may come to the fig tree and may 
be offended by finding there merely leaves and no fruit. I 
have information from Adam himself, in fact, about the 
significance of the leaves. He preceded to make a covering 
for himself out of the leaves of the fig tree after he had 
sinned, whereas he should have had its fruit instead. The 
just man chooses the fruit; the sinner, the leaves. What is 
the fruit? We read: The fruit of the spirit is charity, joy, 
peace, patience, kindness, modesty, continency, love.' 11 He 
who possessed no fruit possessed no joy. The person who 
violated the command of God did not have faith, and he 
who ate of the forbidden tree did not have the virtue of 
continency. 

(65) Whoever, therefore, violates the command of God 
has become naked and despoiled., a reproach to himself. He 
wants to cover himself and hide his genitals with fig leaves, 
making use, as it were of empty and idle talk which the 
sinner interweaves word after word with fallacies for the 
purpose of shielding himself from his awareness of his guilty 
deed. Desiring to conceal his fault, he throws leaves over 
himself, at the same time indicating that the Devil is respon- 
sible for his crime. He offers allurements of the flesh or the 
recommendations of another individual as excuses for his 
wrongdoing. He frequently produces examples from holy 
Scripture, citing them as instances of how a just man may 
fall into sin, the sin of adultery: 'And Abraham lay with 
his handmaid and David loved a strange woman whom 

9 Mich. 4.4. 

10 Prov. 27.18. 

11 Gal. 5.22. 



PARADISE 



345 



he made his wife. 512 He patches together examples for his 
purposes from the list of prophetical books of Scripture. He 
sees the leaves and ignores the fruit. 

(66) Do not the Jews seem to you to be patchers of 
leaves when they interpret in a material manner the words 
of the spiritual Law? Their interpretation, condemned to 
eternal aridity, loses all the characteristic greenness of the 
fruit. There is a correct interpretation, therefore, which 
points to a fruitful and spiritual fig tree beneath which just 
men and saints find their rest. 13 Whoever plants this tree in 
the souls of every man will eat the fruit thereof, as Paul 
says: I have planted, Apollos watered.' 14 But the wrong 
interpretation will not confer the fruit nor conserve its 
viridity. 

(67) It was a serious matter, therefore, when, following 
this interpretation, Adam girded himself in that place where 
it would have been better that he had girded himself with 
the fruit of chastity. Seeds of generation are said to exist in 
our loins around which we bind our garments. Hence, Adam 
did wrong on that occasion when he girded himself with 
leaves that have no utility, inasmuch as by this act he 
implied, not the fruit of a future generation, but certain sins 
which remained until the coming of our Lord and Saviour. 
But, when the master came, He found the fig tree unculti- 
vated. Elsewhere, when requested that he should order it 
to be cut down, the owner of the fig tree allowed it to 
be cultivated. 15 And so we gird ourselves, not with leaves, 
but with the divine Word, as the Lord Himself says: 'Let 
your loins be girt about and your lamps burning. 316 Where- 

12 Gen. 16.13; 2 Kings 11.4. 

13 Mich. 4.4. 

14 1 Cor. 3.6. 

15 Cf. Matt. 21.19; Luke 13.6-9, 

16 Luke 12.35. 



346 SAINT AMBROSE 

fore He prohibits us to carry money even in our girdles. 17 
Our girdles ought not to store up worldly objects, but things 
of eternal nature. 

Chapter 14 

(68) 'And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in 
the garden towards evening, 51 What does 'walking' mean 
in reference to God, who is everywhere ? In my opinion God 
may be said to walk wherever throughout Scripture the 
presence of God is implied, when we hear that He sees all 
things and 'the eyes of the Lord are upon the just.' 2 We 
read, too, that Jesus knew their thoughts and we read: 
'Why do you harbor evil throughts in your hearts?' 3 When 
we reflect, therefore, on these statements, we have a knowl- 
edge of God in the act of walking. The sinner, in fact, had 
tried to hide away from the sight of God. He wished to 
conceal himself in his thoughts and was unwilling that his 
works appear in the light of day.' 4 The just man saw Him 
face to face, 5 because the mind of the just man is in the 
presence of God and even converses with Him, as it is 
written: 'Judge for the fatherless and defend the widow, 
said the Lord. 76 When a sinner, therefore, reads these pas- 
sages from Scripture, he hears the voice of God walking 
towards evening, so to speak. What does the phrase 'towards 
evening' mean? Does it not mean that the sinner realizes 
his sin too late and that the shame which should have for- 
17 Cf. Matt. 10.9. 

1 Gen. 3.8. 

2 Ps. 33.16. 

3 Luke 6.8; Matt. 9.4. 

4 Matt. 5.16. 

5 Bent.. 34.10; 1 Cor. 13,12. 

6 Isa, 1.17,18. 



PARADISE 347 

stalled the fault before it occurred was itself too late? While 
the sinner is physically overcome by passions that affect the 
soul, he in his errant fashion does not heed, that is to say, 
does not hear, God, as He in holy Scripture walks in the 
hearts and minds of each and every one of us, God says: 
Tor I will dwell in their midst and I will walk among them 
and will be their God.' 7 Therefore, the dread of divine power 
returns to the soul when we are eager to hide ourselves. 
Then, placed as we are by the thought of our sins in the 
midst of the trees of Paradise where we committed sin, we 
are discovered to be desirous of concealing ourselves and 
to be thinking of hidden things which God does not demand 
of us. But He who is 'the discerner of our thoughts and 
intentions of our hearts, extending to the division of soul 
and spirit, 5 says: 'Adam, where are you?' 8 

(69) How does God speak? Is it with the voice of the 
body? Not at all. He utters oracular words with a voice that 
is far more significant than is the voice of the body. The 
prophets heard this voice. It is heard by the faithful, but the 
wicked do not comprehend it. Wherefore we find the Evan- 
gelist in the Gospel listening to the voice of the Father 
speaking: 'I have glorified it and will glorify it again.' But 
the Jews did not listen. Hence they said: 'I had thundered. 39 
We have given an instance above wherein God was thought 
to be walking when He was not. Here is an occasion when 
He was heard speaking, whereas to some people He spoke not. 

(70) But let us take note of what He speaks: 'Adam, 
where, are you?' Even now these words have the healing 
power of salvation for those who hear the Word of God. 
Hence it is that the Jews who closed their eyes lest they hear 
do not deserve to hear even today. It follows that those who 

7 Lev, 26.12 

8 Heb. 4.12; Gen. 3.9. 

9 John 12.28,29. 



348 SAINT AMBROSE 

conceal themselves have a remedy, for he who hides himself 
is ashamed and he who is ashamed is converted, as it is 
written: 'Let them be much troubled and let them all be 
turned back speedily. 510 The very fact of His calling a person 
is a testimony of salvation to him who comes, because the 
Lord calls those for whom He feels pity. When He says, 
therefore, where are you? 5 it is not a question of a locality 
to one who knows what is hidden. God did not have His 
eyes closed, so that a man in hiding was able to escape His 
notice. For that reason He said: 'Adam has become like 
one of us/ 11 because his eyes were opened. He., in fact, 
opened his eyes, so that he saw his own sin which he was 
unable to avoid. It happens that after we have sinned, we 
become, somehow or other, more aware of our crimes. We 
are then aware of the sin which we did not consider to be 
such before we actually fell into sin. Certainly we did not 
then believe that a sin was subject to our disapproval, for, 
if we had felt guilty, we would not have committed it. God 
sees the faults of all men and knows their offenses. His eyes 
penetrate into the secrets of the souls of each and every one 
of us. What, then, does He mean by 'Adam, where are you? 5 
Does He not mean 'in what circumstances 5 are you; not, 
'in what place 5 ? It is, therefore, not a question, but a reproof. 
From what condition of goodness, beatitude, and grace, He 
means to say, have you fallen into this state of misery? You 
have forsaken eternal life. You have entombed yourself in 
the ways of sin and death. Where is that noble confidence 
and trust of yours? That fear that you show is evidence 
of your wrongdoing and that hiding place of yours betrays 
your dereliction. 'Where are you?' does not mean 'in what 
place/ but 'in what condition.' Where have your sins led 
you, so that you fled the God whom before you sought 

10 Ps. 6.11. 

11 Gen. 3.22. 



PARADISE 349 

after? Perhaps you are disturbed by the fact that Adam is 
the first to be rebuked, although the woman was the first to 
eat the fruit. But the weaker sex begins by an act of diso- 
bedience, whereas the stronger sex is more liable to feelings 
of shame and forgiveness. The female furnished the occa- 
sion for wrongdoing; the male, the opportunity to feel 
ashamed. 

(71) And the woman said: c The serpent deceived me 
and I ate.' 12 That fault is pardonable which is followed by 
an admission of guilt. The woman, therefore, is not to be 
despaired of, who did not keep silent before God, but who 
preferred to admit her sin the woman on whom was passed 
a sentence that was salutary. It is good to suffer condem- 
nation for our sins and to be scourged for our crimes, 
provided we are scourged along with other men. Hence, 
Cain, because he wanted to deny his guilt, was judged 
unworthy to be punished in his sin. He was forgiven without 
a prescribed penalty, not, perhaps, for having committed 
such a serious crime as parricide he was responsible for 
his brother's death as one of sacrilege, in that he thought 
he had deceived God when he said: 1 do not know. Am 
I my brother's keeper?' 13 And so the accusation is reserved 
for his accuser, the Devil, prescribing that he be scourged 
along with his angels, since he did not wish to be scourged 
with men. Of such, therefore, has it been said: There is 
no regard for their death and they shall not be scourged 
like other men. 314 The woman's case is, accordingly, of a 
different character. Although she incurred the sin of diso- 
bedience, she still possessed in the tree of Paradise food for 
virtue. And so she admitted her sin and was considered 
worthy f pardon. The just is first accuser of himself in the 

12 Gen. 3.13. 

13 Gen. 4.9. 

14 Ps. 72.4,5. 



350 SAINT AMBROSE 



beginning of his speech.' 15 No one can be justified from sin 
unless he has first made confession of his sin. Wherefore the 
Lord says: Tell if thou hast anything to justify thyself, 516 
(72) Because Eve has admitted her crime, she is given a 
milder and more salutary sentence, which condemned her 
wrong-doing and did not refuse pardon. 17 She was to serve 
under her husband's power, first, that she might not be 
inclined to do wrong, and, secondly, that, being in a position 
subject to a stronger vessel, she might not dishonor her 
husband, but on the contrary, might be governed by his 
counsel 18 I see clearly here the mystery of Christ and His 
Church. The Church's turning toward Christ in times to 
come and a religious servitude submissive to the Word of 
God these are conditions far better than the liberty of this 
world. Hence it is written: Thou shalt fear the Lord thy 
God and shall serve him only.' 19 Servitude, therefore, of this 
sort is a gift of God. Wherefore, compliance with this 
servitude is to be reckoned among blessings. We have the 
example of Isaac granting it as a blessing to his son Esau 
that he should serve his brothers. Hence he asked for his 
father's blessing. Although he knew that one blessing had 
been taken from him, he asked for another: 'Have you only 
one blessing, father?' 20 By this servitude, therefore, Esau, 
who had before he sold birthright to satisfy his appetite 
and who in his zeal for hunting in the field had not the 
benefits derived from a blessing, 21 had now come to believe 
that he would fare better in the future if he would pay 
reverence to his brother as a type of Christ. By this kind of 



15 Prov. 18.17. 

16 Isa. 43.26. 

17 Cf. Gen. 3.16. 

18 Cf. 1 Peter 3.7. 

19 Deut. 6.13; Luke 4.8. 

20 Cf. Gen. 27.40,38. 

21 Cf. Gen. 25.27. 



PARADISE 



351 



servitude Christian folk grow strong, as we have it expressed 
in the words of the Lord to His disciples: 'Whoever wishes 
to be first among you, let him be the slave of all of you.' 22 
Hence charity, which is greater than hope and faith, brings 
this servitude to pass, for it is written: 'By charity serve one 
another.' 23 This, then, is the mystery mentioned by the Apostle 
in reference to Christ and the Church. 24 The servitude existed 
formerly, in fact, but in a condition of disobedience which 
was to be later made salutary by the generation of children 
*in faith and love and holiness with modesty. 525 What was 
certainly among the fathers a generation brought into exist- 
ence in sin shall become salutary in the children, so that what 
was a stumbling block to the Jews shall in the society of 
Christians undergo improvement. 



Chapter 15 

(73) 'The serpent urged me,' she said. This seemed to 
God to be pardonable, inasmuch as He knew that the serpent 
found numerous ways to deceive people, 'Satan disguises 
himself as an angel of light 5 and 'his ministers as ministers 
of justice,' 1 imposing false names on individual things, so 
as to call 'rashness' a virtue and avarice 'industry.' The 
serpent, in fact, deceived the woman and the woman led 
the man away from truth to a violation of duty. The serpent 
is a type of the pleasures of the body. The woman stands for 
our senses and the man, for our minds. Pleasure stirs the 
senses, which, in turn, have their effect on the mind. Pleasure, 

22 Matt. 20.27. 

23 Gal. 5.13. 

24 Cf. Eph. 5.32. 

25 1 Tim. 2.15. 



1 2 Cor. 11.14,15. 



352 SAINT AMBROSE 

therefore, is the primary source of sin. For this reason, do 
not wonder at the fact that by God's judgment the serpent 
was first condemned, then the woman, and finally the man. 
The order of condemnation, too, corresponded to that of the 
crimes committed, for pleasure usually captivates the senses 
and the senses, the mind. To convince you that the serpent 
is the type of pleasure, take note of his condemnation. 

(74) 'On your breast and on your belly shall you crawl,' 
we read. Only those who live for the pleasures of the stomach 
can be said to walk on their bellies, 'whose god is their belly 
and their glory is their shame/ 2 who eat of what is earthy, 
and who, weighed down with food, are bent over towards 
what is of earth. The serpent is well called the symbol of 
pleasure in that, intent on food, he seems to feed on the 
earth: 'On your breast and on your belly shall you crawl, 
dust shall you eat all the days of your life.' 3 We should not 
tolerate any of the excuses the Devil may make. By so doing 
we may, perchance, offer him an occasion to display his 
wickedness. We do this when we say that his iniquity 
resulted from his condemnation and hence that he aimed 
constantly to injure mankind because he was condemned 
for the very purpose of doing us harm. This seems to be 
pretty fanciful. If we regard the sentence passed on him to 
be in the nature of a condemnation, God did not condemn 
the serpent in order to cause injury to man. He pointed out 
what was to happen in the future. Furthermore, we have 
demonstrated above how that temptation can be of great 
service to mankind. What we are to expect can in some 
measure be gathered from our knowledge of what has been 
written: 'Whoever shall glorify me, him will I glorify and 
he that despises me shall be despised/ 4 God brings to pass 

2 Phil. 3.19. 

3 Gen. 3.14. 

4 1 Kings 2.30. 



PARADISE 



353 



what is good, not what is evil, as His words can teach you 
that He confers glory and disregards punishment. 'Who- 
soever shall glorify me/ He says, 'him will I glorify,' thus 
declaring that the glory of the good is the purpose of His 
work. And concerning 'him that despises me,' He did not 
say I shall deprive of glory, but that he shall be deprived 
of glory. He did not avow that injury to them would be the 
result of His action, but pointed out what was to come. He 
did not say, therefore, I shall make you crawl on your breast 
and belly and feed on earth all the days of your life. What 
He actually said was: 'You shall crawl and you shall eat,' 
in this way showing that He predicted what the serpent 
would do in the future rather than prescribe what he was 
to do. The earth, not the soul, He said, is your food, and 
this, in fact, can be of profit to sinners. Hence the Apostle 
'delivered such a one for the destruction of the flesh, that 
his spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.' 5 
He says that the serpent crawls on his breast and belly. This 
is due not so much to the shape of his body as to the fact 
that he has fallen from celestial happiness because of his 
thoughts of earth. The breast, in fact, is frequently referred 
to as the seat of wisdom. And so the Apostle leans his head, 
not on the ground, but on Christ's breast. 6 If, therefore, the 
wisdom of the Devil is compared to that of the most cruel 
of animals whose breast is between its legs, if men, too, who, 
'minding the things of the earth' 7 and without the inner 
urge to rise towards heaven, have the appearance of crawling 
on their bellies then we surely ought to fill the belly of our 
souls with the Word of God rather than with the corruptible 
things of this world. Fittingly, therefore, does David, assuming 
the character of Adam, say: 'My soul is humbled down to 

5 1 Cor. 5.5. 

6 Cf. John 13.25; 21.20. 

7 Phil. 3.20. 



354 SAINT AMBROSE 

the dust, my belly cleaveth to the earth.' 8 He used the word 
'cleaveth 3 in reference to the serpent who feeds on earthly 
iniquities. Thus the Apostle says that we should take on the 
pattern of Christ, so that the virtue of Christ may extend 
to you. 9 The sentence imposed on the serpent is not consi- 
dered a heavy one, since even Adam, whose offense was 
less serious, was accorded a like sentence. 

(75) For it is written: 'Cursed is the earth in thy works; 
in sadness shall you eat thereof all the days of your life.' 
The two sentences seem to have a certain similarity, yet in 
that similarity there is a great difference. There is a differ- 
ence in the way a person eats of the earth, as the serpent 
is related to have done and the manner in which this is 
recorded of the man: 'In sadness shall you eat. 5 That very 
phrase 'in sadness' makes the precise difference. Note how 
important this difference is. It is for my benefit that I 
should eat the earth in sadness rather than with delight, that 
is to say, that I should appear to feel a certain sadness in 
my bodily acts and senses rather than experience pleasure 
in sin. Many, in fact, because of their manifold iniquities 
have no awareness of sin. But he who says: 'I chastise my body 
and bring it into subjection,' 10 feels sadness because of regret 
for the sins to which we are subject. He himself did not 
have such serious faults for which he ought to feel sorrow. 
Hence he teaches us that that kind of sorrow is of value 
which has, not this world, but God, as its end. It is right, 
he says, that you become sorrowful, so as to feel repentance 
in the face of God: Tor the sorrow that is according to 
God produces salvation, whereas the sorrow that is according 
to the world produces death.' 11 Take note of those who in 

8 Ps. 43.25. 

9 Phil. 3.17. 
JO 1 Cor. 9.27. 
11 2 Cor. 7.9,10. 



PARADISE 



355 



the Old Testament were sorrowful in the midst of their 
bodily labors and who attained grace, while those who found 
delight in such pleasures continued to be punished. Hence 
the Hebrews, who groaned in the works of Egypt/ 2 attained 
the grace of the just and those 'who ate bread with mourning 
and fear/ were supplied with spiritual good. 13 The Egyptians, 
on the other hand, who, in their service to a detestable king, 
carried out such works with joy, received no favor. 14 

(76) There, too, is that distinction between the serpent 
who is said to eat the earth and Adam, to whom God said: 
'You shall eat in sadness the herbs of the field. 315 We may 
note here a certain gradation. When we eat the earth, it 
seems that we are in a sort of warfare. When we eat the 
herbs, there is a certain advance. When finally, we eat bread, 
then our life of trial has reached its terminus. Let us expe- 
rience a series of advancements in this life as Paul did: c lt 
is now no longer I that live,' 16 that is, not I who before 
this ate the earth, not I who ate grass, for 'all flesh is grass,' 17 
but 'Christ lives in me. 518 This signifies that living bread 
which comes from heaven, 19 and that wisdom, too, is living, 
together with grace, justice, and resurrection. 

(77) Again, consider the fact that it is the serpent and 
not man who is cursed. And the earth is not cursed in itself 
but is 'cursed in your work,' 20 This is said in reference to 
the soul. The earth is cursed if your works are earthly, that 
is, of this world. It is not cursed as a whole. It will merely 
bring forth thorns and thistles, if it is not diligently cared 

12 Cf. Exod. 2.23. 

13 Tob, 2.5; cf. 1 Cor. 10.3. 

14 Exod. 16.14-18. 

15 Gen. 3.18. 

16 Gal. 2.20. 

17 Isa. 40.6. 

18 Gal. 2.20. 

19 John 6.50. 

20 Gen. 3.17. 



356 SAINT AMBROSE 

for by the labor of human hands. If we do not toil over it 
in labor and sweat we shall not eat bread. The law of the 
flesh wars against the law of the mind. 21 We must labor 
and sweat so as to chastise the body and bring it into sub- 
jection and sow the seeds of spiritual things. If we sow 
what is carnal, we shall reap fruit that is carnal. If, however, 
we sow what is spiritual, we shall reap the fruit of the spirit. 22 

21 Cf. Rom. 7.23. 

22 Cf. 1 Cor. 9.27,11,12. 




CAIN AND ABEL 



BOOK ONE 



Chapter 1 

IN THE PRECEDING PAGES we have discussed the sub- 
ject of Paradise, including the account of the fall 
of Adam and Eve. We have recorded these facts 
to the best of our ability, just as the Lord has inspired us 
to interpret their meaning. Now, we have it on record that 
this sin did not stop at that point, but, to make matters 
worse, lived on and had a successor in the person of one 
who was still more debased. Let us take note, then, of what 
happened subsequently, as we follow in due order the events 
related in the pages of holy Scripture. 

(2) Adam knew his wife and she conceived and bore 
Gain, saying: "I have begotten a man-child through God." 1 
In using the expression 'giving birth to,' it is usual for us to 
consider the categories 'by what,' 'from what,' and 'through 
what.' The phrase 'by what' refers to the material; 'from 

1 Gen. 4.1. 

359 



360 SAINT AMBROSE 

what; to the author; 'through what,' to some instrument. 
Can the expression, 'I have begotten a man-child through 
God/ induce us to think of God as an instrument? Certainly 
not. We are to understand here that God is the Author and 
Creator. Hence, Eve ascribed the work to God when she 
said: 1 have begotten a man-child through God/ so that 
we, too, in a similar situation, ought not to claim our suc- 
cession to ourselves, but attribute it entirely to God. 

(3) 'In addition she bore his brother Abel.' 2 When any- 
thing is added, that which comes before it is eliminated. 
This we can see in an arithmetical calculation or by simple 
reflection. When one number is added to another, something 
new arises. The original number disappears and mentally 
we proceed to exclude the figure with which we started. 
When, therefore, Abel is born in addition, Cain is elimi- 
nated. This can be understood better if we examine the 
signification of their names. Cain means 'getting/ because 
he got everything for himself, Abel, on the other hand, did 
not, like his brother before him, refer everything to himself. 
Devotedly and piously, he attributed everything to God, 
ascribing to his Creator everything that he had received 
from Him. 

(4) There are two schools of thought, therefore, totally 
in opposition one to the other, implied in the story of the 
two brothers. One of these schools attributes to the mind 
itself the original creative source of all our thoughts, sensations, 
and emotions. In a word, it ascribes all our productions to 
man's own mind. The other school is that which recognizes 
God to be the Artificer and Creator of all things and sub- 
mits everything to His guidance and direction. Cain is a 
pattern for the first school and Abel of the second. One 
living being gave birth to these two schools of thought. 
Hence, they are related as brothers because they come from 

2 Gen. 4.2. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 361 

one and the same womb. At the same time, they are oppo- 
sites and should be divided and separated, once they have 
been animated with the life of the spirit. Those who are 
by nature contraries cannot abide for long in one and the 
same habitation. Hence, Rebecca, when she gave birth to 
two individuals of dissimilar nature, the one good and the 
other evil, and when she felt them leap in her womb (Esau 
was the type of wickedness, Jacob the pattern of what is 
good), marveled at the reason for the discord which she 
perceived within her. She appealed to God to make known 
the reason for her suffering and to grant a remedy. This was 
the response given to her prayer: 'Two nations are in your 
womb; two peoples shall stem from your body. 53 Inter- 
preted spiritually, this can mean the same generation of 
good and evil, both of which emanate from the same source 
in the soul. The former is likely to be the fruit of sound 
judgment whereby evil is repudiated and goodness is fostered 
and strengthened. Prior to giving birth to what is good, that 
is to say, to giving complete reverence and deference owed 
to God Himself the soul shows preference to its own creation. 
When, moreover, the soul is generated with faith and trust 
in God, relief comes at the time of parturition. Thus God, 
in applying the beneficial lesson of Abel to the soul of man, 
makes ineffective the impious lesson of Cain. 



Chapter 2 

(5) Following the Scriptures, I am inclined to hold that 
in this place we have a reference to two classes of peoples. 
In disposing for the Church's use the faith of His devoted 
flock, God has made ineffective the perfidy of the people 
who fell away from Him. The very words of God seem to 

3 Gen. 25.23. 



362 SAINT AMBROSE 

establish this meaning: Two nations are in your womb; 
two peoples stem form your body. 5 These two brothers, Cain 
and Abel, have furnished us with the prototype of the 
Synagogue and the Church. In Cain we perceive the parri- 
cidal people of the Jews, who were stained with the blood 
of their Lord, their Creator, and, as a result of the child- 
bearing of the Virgin Mary, their Brother, also. By Abel we 
understand the Christian who cleaves to God, as David says : 
'It is good for me to adhere to my God,' 1 that is, to attach 
oneself to heavenly things and to shun the earthly. Else- 
where he says: 'My soul hath fainted in thy word,' thus 
indicating his rule of life was directed toward reflections on 
the Word and not on the pleasures of this world. Wherefore 
we realize that what we read concerning David in the Book 
of King is not an idle statement, but is said with due weight 
and reflection: 'And he was laid with his fathers.' 3 We are 
given to understand that his faith was like that of his father's. 
It is clear, then, that there is reference here to participation 
in life and not to the burial of a body. 

(6) Hence the words of Scripture here are considered to 
have more than casual meaning. Leaving the appearance of 
this weak body which was attached to his soul as an append- 
age, Isaac 'was gathered to his kin' 4 because he adhered to 
the customs of his father. Fittingly does he say 'to his kin' 
not 'to his people,' as elsewhere. 5 We read in other places 
that men were gathered to their people, but these men 
were not so prominent, A person is more prominent who is 
matched, not by the many, but by the few for there are 
more individuals implied in 'people' than in c kin.' It is 
considered, too, that similarity to a few people has more 

1 Ps. 72.28. 

2 Ps. 108.81. 

3 3 Kings 2.10. 

4 Gen, 35.29. 

5 Deut. 32.50. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 



363 



merit than likeness to a large number. Those, therefore, who 
were born in this world with God's help, who were chosen 
to offer with devotion approved sacrifices, who were content 
with one consort, that is, with the sole society of that highest 
of kinship, wisdom, which is ever one and harmonious 
these persons, according to the testimony of holy Scripture, 
ought not to be put in the category of the average man. In 
the one case, we have an active life which included study 
and meditation; in the other, association with the crowd and 
a mingling with the populace. Those who collectively are 
called 'people' are for the most part swayed by hearsay. 
Uncorrupted purity and lofty lineage are found, not where 
men are subject to popular appeal, but wherever an intelli- 
gent group is gathered together solely for the task of learning. 
Wherefore Isaac, we are told, with the help of God was 
gathered to his kin rather than to his people. Thus you can 
come to understand that he was a man who paid more 
attention to what is divine than to what is merely human. 

(7) Blessed is the mind of that man who, overstepping 
the bounds of species and race, deserves to hear what was 
said to Moses when he stood apart from his people: 'Stand 
thou here with me,' 6 Just as Isaac, the type of the Incarnation 
of the Lord, overstepping the custom of human generation, 
surpassed his predecessors, so that he acquired special dis- 
tinction and veered from participation in the common and 
vulgar, in a similar way we learn from Scripture that 'pro- 
mises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. He does 
not say, "and to his offsprings" as of many, but as of one, 
"and to thy offspring," who is Christ.' 7 In Moses, also, 
there is a figure of one who was to teach the Law, preach 
the Gospel, fulfill the Old Testament, 8 found the New, give 

6 Deut. 5.31. 

7 Gal. 3.16. 

8 Matt. 5.17. 



364 SAINT AMBROSE 

heavenly nourishment to the people. He so far exceeded the 
dignity of his human state that he was given the title of c God' 
as we read in the Scriptures, where the Lord speaks: 'I have 
appointed thee the God of Pharao." He was, in fact, victo- 
rious over all his passions and was not allured by the entice- 
ments of the world. He enveloped this our habitation here 
in the body with a purity that savored of a 'citizenship that 
is in heaven. 510 By directing his mind and by subduing and 
castigating his flesh with an authority that was almost regal, 
he was given the name of 'God,' in whom he had modeled 
his life by numerous acts of perfect virtue. 

(8) Accordingly, we do not read of him, as we do of 
others, that he fell sick and died. We read that 'he died by 
the word of God 7 for a God does not grow weak or undergo 
diminution or addition. Hence Scripture added: 'No man 
hath known of his sepulture until this present day 311 by 
which we are to understand that he was taken up into heaven 
rather than buried, for death may be called a separation of 
the soul from the body. He died, therefore, as the Scripture 
states: 'by the word of God' not 'in accordance with the 
word 5 so as to make known that this was not an announce- 
ment of his death, but was more in the nature of a gracious 
gift to one who was translated rather than left here, and 
whose sepulture was known to no man. Who could ever find 
the remains on earth of one who has been shown in the 
Gospel to be with the Son of God. 12 Hence there appeared 
with him Elias, who was carried away in a chariot and who 
did not die nor was buried according to Scripture, 13 for he 
still lives, being with the Son of God. We read, indeed, that 
Moses did die, but he died by the Word of God, by which 

9 ExocL 7.1. 

10 Phil. 3.20. 

11 Deut. 34.5,6. 

12 Cf. Matt 17.3. 

13 Cf. 4 Kings 2.11. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 



365 



all things are made: 'By the word of God the heavens were 
established. 514 By the Word of God, therefore,, there is no 
cessation of work, but, rather, a foundation. We are not 
to understand that here with the dissolution of the body we 
have a return to earth. A special favor was bestowed on him. 
by the operation of the Word of God, so that to his body 
was granted repose rather than a monumental sepulcher. 
(9) There is a clear distinction between servant and 
master. What is a privilege in a master is in a servant a 
favor. We read that no one knows the sepulcher of Moses 
and that Christ died and was taken up from earth to 
heaven. 15 Christ, in accordance with the mystery of the 
Law, 16 looked forward to the Redemption, so that He would 
rise again. Moses did not, in accordance with the favors 
granted in the Gospel, look forward to Redemption; rather, 
he himself was the bestower of it. Hence his sepulcher is not 
really known, but the sepulcher which the creature could 
not any longer endure has been set free, since of himself 
every creature makes haste to be delivered from 'its slavery to 
corruption.' 17 No one, therefore, knows the burial place of 
Moses, because all men have knowledge of his life. We have 
seen the sepulcher of Christ, but now no longer know it, 
since we have come to know His Resurrection. His tomb, 
in fact, ought to be recognized, so that His Resurrection be 
made manifest. Hence in the Gospel 18 His tomb is described 
in all detail. There is no account of this in the Law, because, 
although the Law announced His Resurrection, 19 it was left 
to the Gospels in their very detailed account to give us con- 
firmation of this fact. 

14 Ps. 32.6. 

15 Cf. Mark 16.19. 

16 Cf. Isa. 53.8. 

17 Rom. 8.21. 

18 Cf. Matt. 27.60. 

19 Cf. Isa. 11.10. 



366 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 3 

(10) Let us complete now our discussion of the theme: 
'In addition she bore Abel. 5 This means that Eve, who had 
grievously erred before, had generated designedly something 
superior, so as to transcend the mistake she had previously 
made. Unless I am mistaken, this event is made generally 
evident in our own experiences. When we are born we have 
the physical sensibility of an infant. Then follows the period 
of childhood, which is devoted merely to the care of our 
bodies with no regard for the rites or observance of divine 
worship. Wherefore, in order to show that Jesus Christ, clear- 
ly revolutionizing the law of nature, was born of a virgin, 
the Prophet states: 'Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear 
a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat 
butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil and 
choose the good. For before the child know to refuse the evil 
and choose the good., he does not put his trust in wickedness 
that he may choose what is good.' 1 And further on: Tor 
before a child know to call his father and his mother, he 
shall receive the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Sa- 
maria against the king of the Assyrians.' 2 For He alone was 
not overcome by the vanity and emptiness of this world as 
one who 'humbled himself, becoming obedient even to death' 3 
one who was most unlike each and every one of us who 
trust in vain and are swollen with the pride of the flesh. 
Hence no one is without sin, not even an infant one day old, 
although he never committed a sin. 4 And so Cain is first to 
assert himself when we are born, Abel, in whom there is 
reverence for divinity, is born after him. Evil, therefore, is 

1 Isa. 7.14-16. 

2 Isa. 8.4. 

3 Phil. 2.8. 

4 Job 14.4; 1 Peter 2.22; 1 John 3.5. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 367 

the first to make its appearance and next the recognition of 
what is good. Where there is good, there is justice. Where 
there is justice, there is holiness, that is to say, Abel who 
cleaves to God. 

(11) 'And Abel,' we are told, 'became a keeper of flocks 
and Cain a tiller of the soil.' 5 Not without reason, as Scripture 
teaches us, is Abel mentioned first in this passage, although 
Cain was the first bora. The order of nature differs from the 
order given to the names themselves. What is the significance 
of this change of order in first mentioning the younger of the 
two, when there is reference to employment and vocation? 
In order to understand the reason for this preference we 
should take note of the differences in their tasks. Tilling the 
soil comes first in our experience. This activity is lower in 
prestige than that of sheep-herding. This is like the case of a 
teacher or leader who, rightfully as elders do, begins with 
principles that are older and better established. The younger 
man, on the other hand, is likely to prefer land which is not 
so old, which does not 'bring forth thorns and thistles,' 6 and 
which is generally acceptable. Accordingly, Adam, being 
guilty of sin, is expelled from the Garden of Delight that he 
might till the soil. 7 The order of nature is correctly preserved 
at the time of the coming of these brothers into this world. 
When it is a question of instruction in the art of living, the 
younger is preferred to the older because, although junior 
in age, he is superior in virtue. Innocence is later in time 
than wickedness. Although nearly equal in age, it is far 
superior in the high quality of its merits: Tor venerable old 
age is not counted by years nor by grey hairs but by morals, 
and a spotless life is old age.' 8 When, therefore, there is 

5 Gen. 4.2. 

6 Gen. 3.18. 

7 Cl Gen, 3.17. 

8 Wisd. 4.8,9. 



368 SAINT AMBROSE 

question of birth, Cain should take the first place. When 
there is question of instruction, Abel should stand first. Who 
can deny, then, that adolescence and the early years of man- 
hood are subject to the temptations of the passions? Who can 
deny, too, that, when a more mature age is reached, peace 
returns after the tempestuous yearnings of youth are passed 
and the wearied soul finds at last a mooring place in some 
secluded harbor of life? 

Chapter 4 

(12) From such examples as these there can be no doubt, 
therefore, that, although wickedness has precedence in time, 
yet it has the infirmity which belongs to youthfulness. Wicked- 
ness has the contributory advantage of age, whereas virtue 
has the privilege of that sort of prestige which a man given 
to unjust judgments often concedes to the just. Holy Scrip- 
ture is a trusted witness of this fact in the episode where 
Esau, whose name is linked with those who are stupid, 1 went 
so far as to surrender his own birthright to his brother Jacob, 
saying: 'Of what use to me is my birthright?' 2 But the birth- 
right which he disregarded, a man endowed with competence 
(as his name 3 implies) made an effort to deserve. Does not 
Esau seem to you to be like one who was defeated in a 
contest? Does he not appear to you to be like a man who, 
believing on account of his inherent weakness that he was 
outclassed, yielded up the crown to the victor who, he per- 
ceived, was not affected by any temptations of the senses, 
which, like the dust of an arena, he himself was unable to 
endure? 'Of what use to me,' he said, 'is my birthright?' 
Among the craven there are no evidences of virtue. These 

1 Cf. Isidore, Etymol 7.6.33. 

2 Gen. 25.32. 

3 Cf. Isidore, Etymol. 7.7.5. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 



369 



indications are first observable among men of wisdom, for 
mental activity serves as a means toward the attainment of 
virtue. As a warrior cannot exist without arms, so virtue is 
not attained without the practice of it. Hence the Lord 
says in the Gospel: 'From the days of John the Baptist the 
kingdom of heaven has been enduring assault and the violent 
have been seizing it,' And elsewhere: 'Seek the kingdom of 
God and behold all things are yours.' 4 Rewards are promised 
not to those who sleep or who idle away their time, but to 
those who strive. Toil has its recompense. Although it may 
not be pleasant or sweet, labor provides a wealth of compen- 
sation. 

(13) This is the lesson given in the Law, as we find it 
recorded: 'If a man have two wives, one beloved and the 
other hated, and both the beloved and the hated have had 
children by him, and the son of the hated be the first born, 
and he meaneth to divide his substance among his sons. 
He may not make the son of the beloved the first born and 
prefer him before the son of the hated. But he shall acknowl- 
edge the son of the hated for the first born and shall give 
him a legacy of all he hath, for this is the first of his children 
and to him are due the first birthrights.' 5 What profound 
secrets lie in what we read, veiled in the language of mystery! 
Pay heed, soul, to your two-fold birth and examine the 
mystery found in the story of the hated wife. You will find 
the answer within you, if you stop and reflect. Look into 
your thoughts and into your emotions and you will recognize 
that to which you owe your birthright. Two women, in fact, 
cohabit in each one of us: women who live in discord and 
disagreement and who fill the house of our soul with 
their bickerings and contentiousness. One of these is called 

4 Matt. 11.12; 6.33. 

5 Deut. 21.15-17. 



370 SAINT AMBROSE 

Pleasure. She is so pleasant, ingratiating, and agreeable 
that we have in mind to make her our associate and consort. 
The other one is harsh, bitter, and cruel. Her name is Virtue. 
(14) Pleasure, then, is an impudent prostitute with mincing, 
alluring gait. She beckons with her eyes, winking playfully 
so as to trap in her snares the precious souls of young men. 
The eyes of a sinful libertine are used as a lure. Whomsoever 
she sees 'a foolish young man who passeth by the corner 
and goeth nigh the way of her house' 6 she approaches 
with wheedling words. She endeavors to steal the hearts of 
young men a woman restless at home, a wanderer in the 
public squares, prodigal of kisses, indifferent to shame, gaudy 
in her dress and countenance, 7 Since she is unable, indeed, 
to assume a beauty that is true to nature, she affects what 
is the opposite to truth an external show of meretricious 
arts. Accompanied by a crowd of vicious characters and 
surrounded by a band of wicked men, she acts as a leader 
in their sinful acts. She attacks the citadels of men's hearts 
while uttering such words as these as a war-cry: C I have 
vowed victims for peace, this day I have paid my vows. 
Therefore I am come out to meet thee, desirous to see thee, 
and I have found thee. I have woven my bed with cords. 
I have covered it with tapestry from Egypt, I have perfumed 
my bed with saffron and my home with cinnamon. Come 
and let us wrestle with desire.' 8 Here in the words of Solomon 
we behold the very picture of a wanton. What other than 
worldly pleasure is more characteristic of a prostitute who 
make her entrance stealthily into the house, first making 
tentative explorations with her eyes and then entering quickly, 
while you concentrate the gaze of your soul outward on 

6 Prov. 7.8. 

7 Prov. 7.12,13. 

8 Prov. 7.14-18. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 371 

the public square, that is, on the streets frequented by 
passersby and not inward on the mysteries of the Law? She 
has contrived to trap us in a room devoted to the associations 
of common life by such solid chains that a person, although 
held in bondage, finds himself at ease there. As she reclines 
there she covers her body with coverlets of fraud and deceit 
so as to allure the souls of young men, alleging the absence 
of a husband, that is to say, her disregard for the Law. The 
Law does not exist for sinners, for, if it were present, it would 
not have been ignored. Hence we read: Tor my husband 
is not at home, he is gone a very long journey. He took 
with him a bag of money.' 9 What is the meaning of this, if 
not that the rich believe that there is nothing that money 
cannot control and that the Law is something that can be 
sold for profit? Pleasure scatters its fragrance because it has 
not the fragrance of Christ. 10 Pleasure looks for treasures, 
it promises kingdoms, it assures lasting loves, it pledges un- 
dreamed of intimacies, instruction without a guardian and 
conversation without hindrance. Pleasure promises a life be- 
reft of anxiety, a sleep devoid of disturbance and wants that 
cannot be satiated. We read: Entangling him with many 
words and alluring him with the snares of her lips, she led 
him even to her home. He was beguiled and followed her. 11 
The hall had all the splendor of a royal palace with walls in 
relief work. The floor reeked of spilled wine and emitted the 
odor of unguents. It was covered with the remains of fish. 
The flowers, now faded, made walking hazardous. Every- 
thing there was confused and contrary to the order of nature : 
the uproar of the banqueters, the noise of contenders, the 
clash of wranglers, the chorus of singers, the hubbub of 

9 Prov. 7.19,20. 

10 2 Cor. 2.15. 

11 Cf. Prov. 7.21,22. 



372 SAINT AMBROSE 

dancers, the laughter of the merry^ and the applause of the 
revelers. There you find dancing girls with shorn locks and 
boys with curly hair, mingled with disgusting evidences of 
repletion and overindulgence, yesterday's intoxication and 
today's inebriation. Repeated bouts of intemperance, saturated 
with the odor of stale wine, made a stronger impression on 
the senses than fresh liquor would. Pleasure, standing in the 
midst of this disorder, said: 'Drink ye and be drunken and 
fall and rise no more.' With me the most wicked holds the 
first place in my estimation. The man who is not himself is 
mine and, the more evil he is, the, more is he acceptable to 
me. 'Babylon hath been a golden cup in my hand that made 
all the earth drunk. All the nations have drunk of my wine. 512 
Who, therefore, is devoid of wisdom, let him turn toward me. 
My advice to those who are foolish is this : 'Enjoy the bread 
that is hidden and drink of the stolen waters that are sweeter. 3 
'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.' 'Our life 
shall pass away as the trace of a cloud and shall be dispersed 
as a mist. 5 'Come, therefore, and let us enjoy the good things 
that are present and let us speedily use the creatures as in 
youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and with oint- 
ments and let not the flower of our time pass by us. Let us 
crown ourselves with roses before they be withered. Let no 
meadow escape our riot. Let us everywhere leave tokens of 
joy/ 13 All things are left behind here and we bring with us 
nothing but what bodily pleasures we have experienced. I 
have ^set myself up, therefore, as a teacher of this philosophy. 
Nothing is true unless it brings some good, something sweet, 
and something pleasant. Put your trust in this philosophy, 
which is the very wisdom of Solomon. 

12 Jer 25.27; 51,7. 

13 Prov. 9.17; Isa. 22.13; Wisd. 2.3,6-9. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 373 

Chapter 5 

(15) On hearing these words, the young man is wounded 
like a stag when 'the arrow pierces his liver. 51 Virtue, having 
pity on him and seeing him on the point of falling, rushes 
to his aid. She is fearful that he, being human, may be 
intrigued, if there should be any delay, by such sweet allure- 
ments. 'Although you have not sought my aid, 5 she says, 'I 
have come openly before you lest this intemperate woman, 
who knows no shame, may outwit you in your ignorance. 
She sits at the door of her house upon a seat in the public 
squares calling them that pass by. 5 'Now therefore, my son, 
hear me and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thy 
mind be drawn away in her ways. For she has cast down 
many wounded and countless are those she has slain. Her 
house is the way to hell, reaching even to the inner chamber 
of death.' 'Remove from thee a forward mouth and let 
distracting lips be far from thee. Let thy eyes look straight 
on, 5 'Mind not the deceit of a woman, for the lips of a harlot 
are like a honeycomb dropping. 52 This for a time you may 
find intriguing, but soon you will discover that this is more 
bitter than poison. Time will not permit me to relate in 
detail her vices. I refer you to the Book of Proverbs where 
these are described. Do not let her outward appearance 
dazzle you. It is fraudulent and full of deceit, entirely lacking 
in genuineness and in truth. Do not be tricked by the arti- 
fices of her eyes. Rather, be a follower of him 'who cometh 
leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills, looking 
through the windows, 53 beyond the reach of snares. The 
bonds of Pleasure, which give delight to the eye, charm to 
the ear, but pollution to the mind, are evil. What Pleasure 

1 Prov. 7.23. 

2 Cf. Prov. 9.14,15; 7.24-27; 4,24.25; 5.2,3. 

3 Cant. 2.8,9. 



374 SAINT AMBROSE 

offers is often spurious. Truth is obscured and instruction 
ignored by promises of gold to come. However, 'choose 
knowledge rather than gold and wisdom above precious gold. 
It is better than all the most precious things.' 4 I will not 
conceal from you the sum total of the effects of Pleasure. I 
should not want to conceal her ugliness or dissemble her 
enticements, for she lifts up and excites the mind by the 
eloquence of her speech. In effect, she shows all the kingdoms 
of the world and says: 'All these things I will give to thee, 
if thou wilt fall down and worship me.' 5 At that point be 
on your guard ]est you be deceived by the impermanent and 
the passing which tempt us mightily. 

(16) The Lord Jesus has pointed out to you 6 how you 
may resist temptations of this sort. The Devil first tried to 
snare Him with an appeal to the satisfaction of hunger: 'If 
thou art the Son of God, command that this stone become 
a loaf of bread. But he answered and said, "Not by bread 
alone does man live, but by every word of God".' 6 Thus 
was the snare broken. Again the Devil laid another snare, 
this time, one of vainglory, a vice that often leads men to 
destruction in their hour of prosperity. 'And he led him to 
Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of a temple and said 
to him. "If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down 
from here, for it is written, he has given his angels charge 
concerning thee, to preserve thee, because upon their hands 
they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a 
stone." ? And so, although the Lord Jesus might have cast 
himself down without danger because of His command 
over the elements, yet, lest He be subject to pride, He gave 
this reply to the Devil: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy 
God.' In this way He taught us how to ward off the temp- 

4 Prov. 8.10,12. 

5 Matt, 4.9,10; cf. Luke 4.7. 

6 Luke 4.4-12. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 375 

tations of the Devil. If a real opportunity for vainglory 
should thus be passed by, how much greater occasion do we 
have to exercise humility when we are presented with a 
situation that is entirely different! We should not neglect to 
mention the third time when the Devil attempted to snare 
the Lord by appealing, on this occasion, to avarice and 
ambition. He took him to a mountain and showed him all 
the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.' Since these 
things cannot endure, the expression c in a moment of time 3 is 
quite appropriate. Wait a little while and these things pass 
away. Wherefore, those who follow such pursuits seem to 
themselves to be on a mountain top. But their position is 
temporary, for it is written: C I have seen the wicked highly 
exalted and lifted up over the cedars of Libanus and I 
passed by, and lo, he was not. 3 ' 7 Those who consider tempo- 
rary things to be of prime importance seem, in fact, to 
worship the Devil: 'Their god is the belly, their glory is their 
shame. 38 Set your glory in God's hands who says to you: 
'The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt 
thou serve, 59 from whom you will attain not what is temporal 
but what is everlasting. 

(17) Those, indeed, who find delight in things that endure 
should make their petitions in due course to Him who is 
the true source of all things. Those things which the Devil 
seems to claim as his property are not really his, as he main- 
tains: 'To thee will I give all this power and their glory, 
for to me they have been delivered.' 10 Put your hope in Him, 
therefore, who is the Creator of each and every creature, 
although the brevity of this life does not call for provision 
for a long journey. God has ordained that the Devil be given 

7 Ps. 36.35,36. 

8 Phil. 3.19. 

9 Luke 4.8; Matt. 4.10. 
10 Luke 4.6. 



376 SAINT AMBROSE 

power to tempt man for a while, but not to possess him. 
The crown of victory cannot be attained without a contest. 11 
The unstable must be put to the test, so that they may 
become just and thus merit the reward. 

(18) God, therefore, assigned this office to the Devil 
because thereby the person involved is subject to punishment 
if he misuses his opportunity. Where does the man given to 
pleasure find his treasure if not in luxurious living? But the 
thrifty man, not the spendthrift, is held in esteem. Hence, 
follow the example of the frugal man when you sit at 
table. Do not by overindulgence become an object of hate: 
'Watching and choler are with the intemperate man/ and 
again; 'If thou hast been forced to eat much, arise, go out 
and vomit; and it shall refresh thee and thou shalt not bring 
sickness upon thy body.' 12 Many are the victims of gluttony, 
whereas temperance claims none. Frugality in the use of 
wine is beneficial, but countless individuals harm themselves 
by overindulgence. Many are the victims of excess at the 
banqueting table an excess which deprives them of the use 
of speech. These who are harmed by gluttony are the victims 
of intoxication, which, while in itself a sin, drives some men 
to commit sin and reduces others to poverty. Take note of 
the type of person whom Christ would finally exclude from 
heaven: 'When the master of the house has entered and 
shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and knock at 
the door, saying, "Open for us!" And he shall say to you in 
answer, "I do not know where you are from." Then you 
shall begin to say, "We ate and drank in thy presence and 
thou didst teach in our streets." And he shall say to you, 
"I do not know where you are from." ' You have heard what 
He said about those who in eating were epicures. Now pay 
heed to what He says about those who fast: 'Blessed are 

11 Cf . 2 Tim. 2.5. 

12 EcclL 31.23-25. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 



377 



they who hunger and are thirsty now, for they shall be 
satisfied.' And again : 'Woe to those who are filled ! For you 
shall hunger. 513 

(19) But do you wish to eat and drink? Enter into the 
banquet hall of Wisdom, who invites all men, proclaiming 
with a loud voice: 'Come, eat my bread and drink my wine 
which I have mingled for you. 514 Do you find delight in 
songs which charm the banqueter? Listen to the voice of 
the Church, who exhorts us not only in canticles, but in the 
Canticle of Canticles: 'Eat, O friends, and drink and be 
inebriated, my brethren.' 15 But this inebriation makes men 
sober. 16 This inebriation is one of grace, not of intoxication. 
It leads to joy, not to befuddlement. It the banquet hall of 
the Church there will be pleasant odors, delightful food, and 
drink in variety. There will be noble guests and attendants 
who grace the occasion. It will not be otherwise! What is 
there that is nobler than to have Christ at the Church's 
banquet, as one who ministers and is ministered unto? Attach 
yourself closely to Him who reclines as a guest at that 
banquet. Unite yourself to God. Do not disdain the banquet 
table which Christ chose, saying : 'I am come into my garden, 

my sister, my spouse. I have gathered myrrh with my 
aromatic spices. I have eaten my bread with my honey and 

1 have drunk wine with my milk. 517 The garden is the 
Garden of Paradise, that is to say, the place of the Church's 
banquet, where Adam was before he committed sin and 
where Eve sat before she become responsible for a deed of 
wrong. There you will gather myrrh, that is to say, perform 
the burial of Christ, so that as 'you are buried with him by 

13 Luke 13.25-27; 6.21,25. 

14 Prov. 9.5. 

15 Cant. 5.1. 

16 Cf. St. Ambrose, Hymns 2.23,24 (bibamus sobriam ebrietatem) . 

17 Cant. 5.1. 



378 SAINT AMBROSE 

means of baptism into death, 518 and as He has risen from 
the dead, you, too, may rise. There you will eat bread which 
'strengthens man's heart.' 19 You will taste of honey which is 
a delight to the tongue. You will drink wine along with 
milk, that is to say, with splendor and purity. This refers to 
the purity of simplicity or to grace which is untainted and is 
applied to the remission of sins. Its effects are comforting 
as milk is to infants at breast, who thereby grow with 
delight into the plenitude of perfect age. Approach, therefore, 
this banquet. Are you afraid that the house is too narrow 
and that the banquet hall may restrict you because of its 
smallness? 'O Israel, how great is the house of God and how 
vast is the place of his possession! It is great and hath no 
end: it is high and immense. There were the giants, those 
renowned men that were from the beginning, of great stature, 
expert in war. The Lord chose not them.' 20 They did not 
deserve to be chosen, for they had knowledge of war, not of 
peace. Learn, therefore, the ways of peace, that you may be 
chosen by God. But that you may perhaps be aware that the 
hugeness of His house is not without adornment and that 
you may find delight in serried rows of columns, 'Wisdom 
hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven 
pillars/ 21 Our Lord Jesus, too, states that 'in my Father's 
house there are many mansions.' 22 In this house, then, you 
will enjoy food for the soul and drink for the mind, so that 
you may never after hunger or thirst, for he who eats here 
eats to satiety and he who drinks here drinks to the point 
of inebriation. 

(20) But this inebriation serves as a guard over modesty, 
whereas the inebriation due to wine is a stimulus to lust, 

18 Rom. 6.4. 

19 Ps. 103.15. 

20 Bar. 3.24-27. 

21 Prov. 9.1. 

22 Job 14.2. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 379 

by which the fleshly organs within us are heated, our minds 
are inflamed, and our souls enkindled. Lust serves as an 
uncontrolled stimulus to wickedness. It never allows our 
emotions to find rest. Night and day, asleep or awake, we 
are disturbed by its inroads. Our minds cannot function and 
unreason displaces reason. Lovers are made uneasy and 
sinners incline to more sin. Even the chaste feel its effects. 
The victim is overcome and kept subdued by the application 
of fire. Sinfulness and wickedness become uncontrollable 
and the devotee of sin can have his fervor extinguished only 
by death. Hence the Apostle says: Tlee fornication.' 23 By 
a swift flight we can shun the savagery of such a rabid 
mistress and escape from such vile servitude. 

(21) What shall I say concerning avarice, that insatiable 
longing, that very lust for gold which is ever desirous of 
more no matter what accumulated treasure is stored away. 
An object of envy to all, but to himself despicable, the 
avaricious man is poor in the midst of riches, slighting the 
fact that his bank balance is large. His desire for gain is as 
limitless as are his opportunities for making a profit. He is 
so consumed with passion that the only difference between 
him and an adulterer is that one has an inordinate love 
for physical form, the other, a desire for a farm, a rich estate. 
The avaricious man does violence to the elements by plough- 
ing the earth and cleaving the sea. He importunes the very 
heavens with his vows. He ever gives expression to displeasure 
whether the skies are serene or cloudy, and is censorious no 
matter what his annual returns are from land or sea. Here 
is clear evidence of his sickness of soul. Wherefore Eccle- 
siastes says: 'There is a grievous illness which I have seen 
under the sun: riches kept to the hurt of the owner.' And 
again he says: 'A covetous man shall not be satisfied with 

23 1 Cor. 6.18. 



380 SAINT AMBROSE 

money. 3 There is no end to their getting. 524 If you are desir- 
ous of treasure, take the invisible and the intangible which 
is to be found in the heavens on high, not that which is in 
the deepest veins of the earth. Be poor in spirit and you will 
be rich, no matter what your worldy goods are, 25 C A man's 
life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, 3 
but in his virtue and in his faith. This richness will enrich 
you if you are rich in your relations to God. 26 



Chapter 6 

(22) You have heard the secret rites of Pleasure. You have 
heard, too, what we offer from our store. I considered it 
proper that these last be not concealed by outward trappings. 
I wished that they be arrayed in the unadorned words of 
Scripture in order that they may gleam in their own light 
and that in due order they may speak out plainly for them- 
selves. The sun and the moon need no interpreter. The bril- 
liance of their light is all-sufficient a light that fills the 
entire world. Faith serves as an illumination for the inspired 
Word. It is, if I may say so, an intestate witness having no 
need of another's testimony, yet it dazzles the eyes of all 
mankind. Our works are not announced, therefore, to the 
world. They speak aloud for themselves. Lest I seem to omit 
what is required in the way of effort, certain essentials are 
in this regard quite necessary. We need to have faith and 
zeal, together with deeds. The three elements requisite for 
the expression of man's religious duties are defined by our 
Lord Jesus: c Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you 

24 Eccle. 5.12,9; 3.12. 

25 Matt. 5.3. 

26 Luke 12.15; cf. 12.21. Here ends the discourse given by Virtue which 
began in (15) . 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 381 

shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you. 5 And again: 
"Everyone therefore who hears these my words and acts upon 
them is like a wise man.' 1 

(23) The person who zealously pursues these objectives 
will receive an unusual blessing. He will be like the patriarch 
Jacob, who eliminates all vestiges of human passion by his 
faith and continence. He states: 'God has been good to me 
and I have all I need.' 2 We should merit, therefore, this 
goodness by the exercise of our faith, our zeal, and our 
accomplishments. By this means the people of Israel found 
the grace of God which itself provided them with everything. 
They rejoiced in the attainment, not of the things of this 
world, but in their training in virtuous deeds. Let us make 
as our heirs those virtues which holy Abraham adopted for 
himself in respect to his- son Isaac. He handed over his 
entire inheritance to one who was wise and just. He did not 
grant the right of inheritance to his maid-servants or to their 
children. He presented them merely with a gift. 3 Those who 
are perfect in virtue receive the entire patrimony of glory, 
whereas a mere trifle is bestowed on the mediocre and com- 
monplace. Accordingly, Agar, whose name in Latin means 
'dwelling near' and Chettura, signifying 'fragrant/ are not 
heirs of Abraham, Those whose training is mediocre are 
neighbors of the home of Wisdom, not dwellers therein. 
That which has a modicum of fragrance has not reached 
its fulfillment in fruit. Food, not mere fragrance, is conducive 
to health. Fragrance is just the herald of fruit to come. We 
conclude, therefore, that those who are leaders in virtue are 
to be preferred to those who are slackers and that native 
dwellers have preference over those who are merely neigh- 
bors in the land of Virtue. 



1 Matt. 7.7,24. 

2 Gen. 33.11. 

3 Cf. Gen. 21.10-13. 



382 SAINT AMBROSE 

(24) This is a rational interpretation. But there is another, 
a mystical one, according to which Abraham, the father of 
the race, confers the entire legacy of his faith to his lawful 
seed which is Christ, 4 who, like a stranger on earth, strove 
to restore the fragrance of this life rather than the fruit. 
When the mind gives heed to this meaning, it turns away 
from Pleasure and links itself to Virtue in admiration of what 
is truly beautiful, what is pure in feeling, what is simple in 
thought, and what is seemly in external appearance. This 
means that Virtue is not arrayed 'in the persuasive words of 
wisdom but in the demonstration of the Spirit/ 5 Such is the 
nature of the apostolic message, in appearance clothed in all 
manner of wisdom and piety, shining forth more brilliantly, 
and more precious, too, than gold of any sort. Moreover, 
this message inculcates the grace that proceeds from that 
choral band of virtues: namely, Prudence, Temperance, 
Fortitude, and Justice. Stirred in such wise, the soul strives 
after those virtues to which Jacob, a man of wide experience, 
had applied himself. Wherefore he is depicted as a shepherd 
herding sheep. 6 This signifies that he was considered to have 
surpassingly good qualities to be able to lord it over his body 
and his senses, and to be able to control his tongue, lest it 
wander like a lost sheep qualities which are of greater 
import than the power of dominion over cities and peoples. 
It is more difficult for a person to rule over himself than 
over others. To exercis'e control over one's mind, to restrain 
one's wrath, and to integrate the conflicting ordinances of 
soul and body are characteristics of a man who is immortal 
by nature, a man whom the infernal portals shall not enclose. 
Hence the lawgiver himself claimed this as his right: to 
pasture the flocks of Jethro (whose name means 'superflu- 

4 Cf. Gal. 3.16. 

5 1 Cor- 2.4. 

6 Cf. Gen. 30.31. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 



383 



ous 5 ) and to drive them into the desert. 7 This means that 
he compelled the irrational loquacity of one whose language 
was common and superfluous to enter into the mysteries 
of sound doctrine, for 'shepherds were repugnant to the 
Egyptians.' 8 All who surrender themselves to the passions of 
this body of ours and indulge in its pleasures are sworn 
enemies of those who stand for virtue. And so in a parable 
Moses has informed us that those virtuous principles and 
deeds which foolish men avoid are offerings suitable for God. 
Hence Abel was a shepherd and Cain a tiller of the soil, 9 
who in foolish fashion could not brook the bright lineaments 
of virtue that adorned his own brother. 



Chapter 7 

(25) 'In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an 
offering of the fruit of the ground' 1 a twofold error: 
first, that his offering came after a period of time, and 
second, that it was composed of fruits of the ground. Again, 
the offering was not of the first fruits. This would have been 
commendable from the point of view of speed and of desir- 
ability. Wherefore we have the precept: 'When thou hast 
made a vow ? thou shalt not delay to pay it,' and c lt is much 
better not to make a vow than after a vow not to perform 
the things promised/ 2 for, although you make a vow, you 
do not carry it out. A vow is a request for a benefit from 
God with a promise to give something in return. Hence, 
when you have obtained what you sought, it would be an 

7 Cf. Exocl. 3.1. 

8 Cf. Gen. 46.34. 

9 Cf. Gen. 4.4. 



1 Gen. 4.3. 

2 Deut. 23.21; Eccle. 5.4. 



384 SAINT AMBROSE 

ungrateful act to delay what you have promised. But, at 
times, men are apt to be heedless and forgetful of the blessings 
they have obtained or to become proud and haughty and 
claim the resulting favors as their own. They tend to refer 
the results to their own peculiar virtues and to consider that 
they, and not the Author of the favors, are responsible for 
their success. There is a third category of error which is of 
lesser import, but comparable because of its arrogance. We 
have reference to those who actually do not deny that God 
is the giver of good things, yet are of the opinion that they 
have obtained them as a result of their adherence to prudence 
and to the other virtues. Wherefore they believe that they 
are deserving of divine grace, inasmuch as it appear that 
they are by no means unworthy of such merits from God's 
beneficence. 

(26) To avoid the eventuality of causing your whole 
approach to prayer to be imperfect, there is a law laid down 
by God, the Lawgiver, for your instruction and guidance: 
Take heed and beware lest you forget the Lord thy God 
and neglect his commandments and judgments and justice 
which I command thee this day, lest after thou hast eaten 
and art filled, hast built houses and dwelt in them, and when 
your sheep and oxen are filled, and you have plenty of 
bronze, of gold and of silver and of all things, and when thy 
granaries are full, thy heart be lifted up and thou remember 
not the Lord thy God.' 3 When you are forgetful of yourself, 
then, also, will you forget the Lord. If you realize how weak 
you are, then you will discover that God is supreme over 
all things and you will not be unmindful of the fact that 
you owe a debt of reverence to Him. 

(27) Now learn how each and every one of us may be 
warned against thinking of himself as the originator of his 



3 Deut. 8.11-14. 



GAIN AND ABEL : ONE 



385' 



own good: 'Lest thou shouldst say, 5 we are told, 'in thy 
heart: my own might and the strength of my own hand 
achieved this virtue for me. But remember the Lord thy God 
that hath given thee strength that thou mightest attain 
virtue.' 4 Wherefore that Apostle is to be commended who, 
in not boasting of his own virtue, followed the Law and said 
that he was the last ^ of the Apostles and that we owe what 
we have, not to our own merits, but to divine grace. 5 He 
said: 'What hast thou that thou hast not received? If thou 
hast received it, why dost thou boast as if thou hadst not 
received it? 56 Here is the lesson of humility rather than of 
arrogance. You should strive, therefore, to be industrious 
rather than be powerful. Here is advice that is salutary. 
Do not, then, make light of the experience of a surgeon who 
makes a deep incision so as to rid a wound of all infection. 
(28) The man who justifies himself, lest he be puffed up 
with the swelling of his heart, has hearkened also to the 
salutary mandate of the oracle: 'Say not in thy heart, when 
the Lord thy God shall bring to destruction those nations in 
thy sight: Because of my justice hath the Lord brought me 
in to possess this land, whereas the Lord will destroy these 
nations before thy face for their wickedness. It is not for 
thy justices nor the uprightness of thy heart that thou hast 
gone in to possess that land, but because of the wickedness 
of the nations, the Lord will destroy them from thy sight 
and will accomplish his testament which he promised by 
oath to thy fathers.' 7 The testament referred to is the perfect 
grace of God. God gives nothing that is imperfect. Perfect is 
virtue and perfect, too, the works of virtue. This testament 
is one which brings with it a legacy of what is good. Rightly, 

4 Deut. 8.17,18. 

5 Cf. 1 Cor. 15.9,10. 

6 1 Cor. 15.4,7. 

7 Deut. 9.4,5. 



386 SAINT AMBROSE 

too, is this testament called divine, because what is really 
and truly good is bestowed on us and granted to us by 
celestial mandate. And the testament referred to is one that 
is old in type but new in truth, because it is sealed in blood. 
By this testament we hold the pledge of divine grace: Tor 
God so loved this world that he delivered his only Son for 
us all.' 8 Wherefore the words of the Apostle points to the 
perfection of grace: 'How can he fail to grant us also all 
things with him?' 9 

Chapter 8 

(29) Swiftness of fulfillment is the primary characteristic 
of a vow. Hence Abraham, when he was commanded to 
offer his own son as a sacrifice, did not, like Cain, fulfill the 
command after a period of time, but, 'arising early in the 
morning he harnessed his ass, took with him two of his 
servants and his son Isaac and cut wood for a holocaust. 
Then he set out on his journey and on the third day came 
to a place which God had indicated to him. 51 Take note 
first of the speed, haste, and eagerness of the expectant sacri- 
ficer. He was delayed only by the time it took to listen to the 
oracle, to harness his ass, so as to comply with God's com- 
mands and make the necessary preparations for the sacrifice. 
He was able, also, to lead away his victim to the accompa- 
niment of the two virtues of faith, namely, certainty in the 
power of God and confidence in His goodness. 

(30) Something can be said in reference to the time 
element, that is, 'the third day.' Abraham's purpose needed 
the quality of continuity and perpetuity, for time is tripartite, 
taking in, as it does, the past, the present, and the future. 

8 John 3.16. 

9 Rom. 8.32. 



1 Gen. 22.3,4. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 387 

By this we are admonished that there should not be any 
trace of forgetfulness of the beneficence of God whether in 
the past, present, or future. We should, rather, be steadfast 
in the recollection of His grace and in our compliance with 
His command. Another reason for this reference to time lies 
in the fact that the person who performs a sacrifice ought 
to put his trust in the brilliant light of the Trinity. For him 
whose sacrifice is grounded in faith has ever around him the 
light of day. For him there is no night. So in Exodus Moses 
says: 'We will go three days' journey to sacrifice unto the 
Lord our God.' 2 Elsewhere, too, when God appeared to 
Abraham by the oak of Mamre, we are told that 'Abraham 
raised his eyes and saw three men standing at a distance from 
him. As soon as he saw them he ran to the entrance of the 
tent door to meet them and bowed down to the earth and 
said: My Lord, if I have found favor with you.' 3 He beholds 
three and one he adores. He offers three measures of fine 
flour. 4 Although God is immeasurable, He nevertheless holds 
the measure of all things, as it is written: 'Who hath meas- 
ured the waters in his hand and weighed the heavens with 
his palm and the bulk of the earth in the hollow of his hand? 55 
The holy patriarch, therefore, offered sacrifice in the secret 
recesses of his heart to the Trinity made perfect in each of 
the Persons. This is the spiritual meaning of the measures 
of fine flour. This is the measure of fine flour mentioned in 
the Gospel which was ground by the woman who 'will be 
taken. 3 'One will be taken; the other will be left.' 6 The 
Church 'will be taken'; the Synagogue 'will be left, 3 or the 
man of good conscience will be taken and the man of bad 
conscience, left. That you may know that Abraham believed 

2 Exod. 3.18. 

3 Gen. 18.2,3. 

4 Cf. Gen. 18.6. 

5 Isa. 40.12. 

6 Matt. 24.41. 



388 SAINT AMBROSE 

in Christ, we read; 'Abraham saw my day and was glad.' 7 
He who believes in Christ believes, too, in the Father, and 
who believes in the Father believes, too, in the Son and Holy 
Spirit. There were three measures, therefore, and one sub- 
stance of fine flour. This means that there was one sacrifice 
which was offered to the Blessed Trinity with an equal 
measure of devotion and a corresponding plenitude of piety. 
(31) There is still another example of speedy and zealous 
devotion. We read: 'He ran and picked out a good tender 
bullock and gave it to the servant who hastened to prepare 
it.' 8 Everywhere we find devotion that is ready and eager 
and, hence, an acceptable gift to God. In another passage 
we are recommended to anticipate the sunrise with a prayer: 
'Run to meet the rising of the sun.' 9 There is the incident 10 
in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, saying: 'Zacchaeus, make 
haste and come down.' And he who attained his wish to see 
Christ and who further succeeded in being seen and addressed 
by Christ made haste to descend and welcomed Him with 
joy. And so the Lord approved of this display of his emotions 
and was quick to reward him in return, saying: 'Today 
salvation has come to this house, 3 The Lord hastened to per- 
form His act of kindness. He did not wait and promise to 
fulfill it later, but first acted and then spoke of it, for He 
said: 'Salvation has come/ which was, of course, the act of 
one who anticipates, not of one who promises. The just man 
gives an added force to his vow by acting quickly. Accord- 
ingly, our fathers ate the paschal lamb in haste, girding up 
their reins, and with shoes in their feet, and standing ready 
equipped for departure. 11 The Pasch is the passage of the 
Lord from passion to the exercise of virtue. It is called the 

7 John 8.56. 

8 Gen, 18.7. 

9 Wisd. 16.28. 

10 Luke 19.5,9. 

11 CL Exod. 12.11. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 389 

Pasch of the Lord because the truth of the Passion of the 
Lord was then indicated in the type of the lamb, and its 
benefits are now being observed. 

(32) Go quickly, then, my soul, in search of this, in order 
that you may quickly hearken unto it as did Jacob: 'How 
did you find it so quickly, my son?' 12 To which Jacob, 
following instructions, replied: 'The Lord your God let me 
come upon it. 3 God gives quickly: Tor he spoke and they 
were made; he commanded and they were created.' 13 The 
Word of God is not, as a certain writer maintains, 14 some- 
thing achieved, but rather being achieved, as it is written: 
'My father works even until now and I work.' 15 The Word 
of God came before all things. It exists before all things like 
the Father and is in every respect like the Father, penetrating 
all things. It is strong, and keen, keener than any sword, 
extending even to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints, 
also, and of marrow, a discerner of the thoughts of all. 16 
Apropos of this, God the Father says: c Thou shalt presently 
see whether my word shall come to pass or not. 517 Wherever 
God is, there is the Word, as He said : We will come to him 
and make our abode with him.' 18 You may read elsewhere 
concerning God: 'I stood here before thee.' 19 And so the 
Word said: 'Before thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee. 3 
It was said of the Word, that is, of the Son of God, that 'in 
the midst of you there stands one whom you do not know.' 20 
Wherever there are holy men, there stands the Word of God 
in their midst, penetrating their inmost hearts and filling 

12 Gen. 27.20. 

13 Ps. 32.9. 

14 Cf. Philo, De sacrifidis Abelis et Caini 18. 
11 John 5.17. 

16 Cf. Heb. 4.12. 

17 Num. 11.23. 

18 John 14.23. 

19 Exod. 17.6. 

20 John 1.48,26. 



390 SAINT AMBROSE 

the sea and the land. When the Word is here, it is elsewhere, 
also, without a change of place. Every place is surcharged 
with the presence of the Word. That which penetrates 
everything and is in everything leaving no place vacant 
that exists everywhere. Where now the Word is present had 
before been possessed by the Word, and contrariwise. Hence, 
when a man is aware of the celerity of the Word of God, he 
is quick to make a petition and as quickly attains his wish. 



Chapter 9 

(33) Take the example of Pharao, a man given to vain 
empty thoughts. His land of Egypt was afflicted with a plague 
of frogs. They gave forth a surfeit of sound, meaningless and 
senseless. Moses said to Pharao: 'Set me a time when I 
shall pray for thee and for thy servants and for thy people 
that the Lord may exterminate the frogs.' Pharao, who be- 
cause of his plight should have besought him to offer prayer, 
replied; Tomorrow,' 1 thus showing himself indifferent to the 
punishment that the delay would bring, although he was still 
intent on saving Egypt from the plague. And so, when his 
prayer was finally granted, he was unmindful of gratitude. 
Being puffed up in his heart, he forgot God. 

(34) Prayer is made effective by humility. We have the 
parable of the Pharisee, who in his prayer enumerated his 
fasts as acts of commendation and who seemed to reproach 
God as he boasted of his virtuous life. The publican, on the 
other hand, 'standing far off, would not so much as lift his 
eyes to heaven but kept striking his breast, saying: O God, be 
merciful to me the sinner!' Hence, in the words of holy 
Scripture, he was preferred before the other: This man went 

1 Exod. 8.9,10. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 391 

back justified rather than the Pharisee.' 2 He is justified who 
confesses his own sin, as the Lord Himself has said: Tell 
if thou hast anything to justify thyself. 33 And David said: 'A 
sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit.' Again: 'A contrite and 
humble heart God does not despise.' 4 Jeremias also says: 'The 
soul in anguish and the troubled spirit cries to thee.' 5 The 
Assyrian, like Pharao, said: 'Who are they among the gods 
of the nations that have delivered the country out of my hand, 
that your God will deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?' 6 They 
were cast down from their exaltation. The just man, like 
Jacob, acknowledges that all good things of whatever sort 
which he has obtained come from God the Creator, saying 
that all he saw was for his benefit: 'The Lord thy God has 
given these into my hands.' 7 This is an example of how one 
should accept the fulfillment of a prayer. David says: 'Offer to 
God the sacrifice of praise and pay thy vows to the most high. 58 
To praise God is to offer Him a prayer and to give thanks for 
its fulfillment. Wherefore preference above all the other lepers 
is to be given to the Samaritan, who alone of the ten cured 
of leprosy returned, according to the Lord's injunction, to 
give thanks and glorify Christ. Of him did Jesus say: 'Has 
no one been found to return and give thanks to God except 
this foreigner?' And He said to him: 'Arise and go thy way, 
for thy faith has saved thee.' 9 

(35) Furthermore, a vow or a prayer is commendable to 
the extent that its substance is not divulged. We should keep 
intact the hidden mysteries just as Abraham did when he 

2 Luke 18.10-14, 

3 Isa. 43.26. 

4 Ps. 50.19. 

5 Bar. 3.1. 

6 4 Kings 18.35. 

7 Gen. 27.20. 

8 Ps. 49.14. 

9 Luke 17.14-19. 



392 SAINT AMBROSE 

caused loaves to be baked under the ashes. 10 This our fathers 
did, too, when they made into loaves, like those which in 
Greek are called 'covered/ the dough that was brought out of 
Egypt. 11 They covered this dough with ashes, an act like 
that which the woman in the Gospel performed when she 
buried leaven in three measures of wheat until the whole 
was leavened. 12 Therein is a profound lesson. Our Lord's 
teaching on prayer is revealed to us more clearly in the 
Gospel : 'But when thou prayest, go into thy room and closing 
the door, pray to the Lord in secret and thy Father, who 
sees in secret, will reward thee. But in praying do not multiply 
words. 3 And He adds: Tor your Father knows what you 
need before you ask him.' 13 Your room is the secret place of 
your heart and soul. Enter into this room, that is, enter into 
the depths of your soul, remove yourself entirely from the 
exterior vestibule, and close your door. 

(36) What is meant by the phrase 'your door'? 'Set a 
watch, O Lord, before my mouth and a door around my 
lips.' 14 Paul makes a prayer for himself when he says: 'That 
God may open the 'door of his Word for me to announce the 
mystery of Christ.' 15 Appropriate for the occasion was the 
substance of his prayer. In preaching the Gospel he was 
clearly chosen to be the one who opened the door of the 
Word, from which issued the salvation of the Gentiles and 
life itself for all people. We should, however, close this door 
lest sin enter in and that from our tongue should issue no 
unseemly word. Sin enters in when we open our mouths to 
utter what is unrighteous. How does sin find entrance? We 

10 Cf. Gen. 18.6. 

11 Cf. Exod, 12.34, 

12 Cf. Luke 13.21, 

13 Matt. 6.6-8. 

14 Ps. 140.3. 

15 Col. 4.3. 



GAIN AND ABEL : ONE 393 

read: *In the multitude of words you shall not escape sin.' 16 
When a multiplicity of words has come forth, sin has found 
an entrance, for in this very multiplicity of words what we 
utter is not in the slightest degree subject to measure. Because 
of lack of prudence we fall into error. In fact, to give expres- 
sion to our thoughts without duly weighing our words is in 
itself a grave sin. 

(37) For that reason be not imprudent in your speech. 
The lips of the imprudent man furnish an occasion for evil. 
Do not be given to self-praise: 'The prayer of him that 
humbleth himself has pierced the clouds. 517 Do not be incau- 
tious and reveal the mysterious import of the Lord's prayer. 
Do you not know how serious it is to commit sin in the 
act of saying a prayer at the very moment when you are 
looking for a favor? The Lord has assured us that we 
are subject to sins of speech when He says: 'And may his 
prayer be turned to sin,' 18 unless you regard this to be of 
slight concern to you. To believe that your prayer is not 
heard unless you cry out aloud is to distrust the power of God. 
Your deeds, your loyalty, your affections, your passions, all 
cry out. Your blood, too, cries out as in the case of Abel, a 
man gives to goodness, concerning whom God spoke these 
words to Cain: The voice of your brother's blood cries to 
me.' 19 He who cleanses you from your secret sins hears you 
in secret. 20 We cannot hear a person unless he speaks. Our 
thoughts, not our words, reach God. To realize this you have 
only to read what the Lord Jesus said to the Jews: 'Why 
do you harbor evil thoughts in your hearts?' These are the 
words, not of one who raises a question, but of one who 

16 Prov. 16.19. 

17 Cf. Eccle. 10.12; 35,21, 

18 Ps. 108.7. 

19 Gen. 4.10. 

20 Cf. Ps. 18.13. 



394 SAINT AMBROSE 

knows. The Evangelist makes this clearer when he says: 
4 Jesus knew their thoughts. 521 What the Son knows, therefore, 
is known also by the Father. In this case you are aware that 
the Son knew. We have testimony elsewhere of the Son's 
participation in the Father's counsel: Tor your Father 
knows what you need before you ask him/ 22 Let the Holy 
Spirit furnish heat to cook the loaves under the ashes. Do 
in like manner to the passions of your soul, using the heat of 
the Word. Although your passions, because you have come 
lately, perhaps, from the land of Egypt, are somewhat intem- 
perate, cover them up and cook them, as it were, under slow 
heat, lest they be unable to endure a greater heat and thus 
be half-burned rather than cooked. There are many examples 
which illustrate the point that what is ill-cooked is displeasing 
and that what is well-cooked is pleasing. Cherish in your 
hearts the profound mysteries, lest you entrust to weak and 
unrealiable ears sentiments which are rudely conceived or 
not well matured. In this way your hearers are likely to take 
warning and to recoil with horror. But, if they find that 
these sentiments have a certain maturity, they can derive an 
element of sweetness from this food of the spirit. 

(38) The Lord Jesus has shown you the goodness of a 
father who knows how to bestow good gifts, in order that 
you may find it opportune to ask what is good of Him who 
is good. 23 He has urged us to pray frequently, not in a series 
of outbursts, but by praying persistently and frequently. 24 
It often happens that a long petition is packed with empty 
phrases and that one which is intermittent is fraught with 
infelicities. Hence He warns us that, when we plead for 

21 Matt. 9.4; Luke 6.8. 

22 Matt. 6.8. 

23 Cf. Luke 11.13. 

24 Cf. Matt. 26.41.48. 



GAIN AND ABEL : ONE 395 

leniency for ourselves., we should be conscious that this is the 
moment especially when we should be generous to others, 
thus commending our prayer by actual deeds. 25 The Apostle 
also teaches us that men should pray without wrath or 
contention, 26 so that our petition may not be characterized 
by emotional disturbance. He teaches us that we should 
pray everywhere, although the Saviour says: 'Go into thy 
room.' 27 But we must understand that the reference here is 
not to a room surrounded by walls for the shelter of our 
person. We are, rather, to understand a room within us in 
which to house our thoughts and our perceptions. This 
habitation for our prayers is everywhere with us a secret 
place known only to God. 

(39) You are instructed above all to pray for the people, 
that is, for all men, 28 for all members of your family, which 
is a conspicuous sign of mutual love. If you make a petition 
for yourself, then you pray merely for your own satisfaction. 
If everyone were thus to make a petition just for himself, 
he would become, not a petitioner, but an intercessor for 
favors. We conclude, therefore, that a petition for oneself 
is restricted to the person petitioning, whereas a petition for 
all men includes oneself, as you are a part of that number. 
Hence, great is the recompense wherein all men are accorded 
the benefits acquired by the prayers of each individual of 
the group. In this there is no question of presumption. 
Rather, it is much more the reflection of a humble heart, 
bestowing benefits more abundantly. 

25 Cf. Matt. 18.33-35. 

26 Cf. 1 Tim. 2.8. 

27 Matt. 6.6. 

28 Cf. 1 Tim. 2.1. 



396 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 10 

(40) But it is now time to turn our attention to another 
point which we have made concerning Cain. We have note4 
that his delay in carrying out his vow was an indication of 
his negligence and presumption. The petition, in fact should 
be made early, lest we appear to rely on human arts, that 
is to say, on the skill of the art of medicine, thus hoping to 
obtain a remedy from the juices of plants rather than request 
God's assistance. We should, first of all, flee to Him who 
has the power to heal the passions of our souls. Men, on the 
contrary, invert the order of their request for aid by appealing 
first to men and afterward, when human assistance fails 
them, their next step is to make to God an appeal for favors. 

(41) Having thus disposed of that charge against Cain, 
let as now discuss another fault in the performance of his 
sacrifice. He made c an offering of the fruit of the ground,' 1 
whereas he owed to God the first fruit of his crop. In this 
way he claimed the first fruit for himself and the remainder 
he left to God. Hence, inasmuch as the soul should be 
preferred to the body, just as the master should be placed 
over the servant, the soul's first fruits should take precedence 
over what the body offers. The first fruit of the soul are the 
primary emotions which are associated with all good thoughts 
and acts. Although these emotions come later in time than 
the first fruits of the body, which include nutrition, growth, 
sight, hearing, touch, smell, voice both soul and body 
have a share in mind and sense still, as senses, they exist 
prior to man's acts. To make an offering of thanksgiving 
to God with pure heart and tongue is in itself an expression 
of a primary act. 

(42) These were the gifts made by Abel. God had regard 

1 Gen. 4.3. 



CAIN AND ABEL : ONE 397 

for his offerings 2 because they came from the first fruits and, 
moreover., from the firstlings of the sheep, those which were 
fat and sleek. Note the fact that the offering was composed 
of living beings, not inanimate things. What is living, since 
it is very closely related to what has a spirit, is more important 
than what is earthly. The significance lies in the fact that 
the living thing comes first and that next it is endowed with 
spirit. The living being breathes and has a vital spirit. This 
is not true of the fruits of the earth. Again, note that he 
offered not seconds, but firsts not lean animals, but fat 
ones. These are the sort of animals recommended and com- 
manded by the Law, as related in the Scriptures : * And when 
God shall have brought thee into the land of the Chanaanite, 
as he swore to thy fathers and shall give it to thee. And thou 
shalt set apart all male animals that openeth the womb for 
the Lord, and all that is first brought forth of thy cattle and 
thy flocks. Whatsoever shall be born thee of the male sex, 
consecrate to the Lord. The firstborn of an ass thou shalt 
change for a sheep, and if thou doth not change it, thou shalt 
redeem it.' 3 Consider the profound mysteries and the wealth 
of wisdom imbedded in these words which in their simplicity 
convey to us an abundance of grace of the spirit! The 
Chanaanites are people who are restless and uneasy. When 
you enter into their land and notice how they are devoid of 
morals as a result of their levity, uneasiness, and instability, 
then you have an occasion to show your constancy. Do not 
be disturbed by any trifling argument or flightiness of speech. 
These are the characteristics of the Chanaanite, incon- 
sistency in language, emotional instability and restless con- 
tention. Be calm and present to them a tranquillity and 
serenity of mind and soul. Be like one who escapes the storms 
of the sea by casting anchor in a safe harbor. 

2 Cf. Gen. 4.4. 

3 Exod. 13.11-13. 



398 SAINT AMBROSE 

(43) The attainment of this goal is promised to you by 
the Lord. You are confirmed in your constancy by His 
assurance, which may be likened to an oath. But God does 
not solemnly swear because He has need of a believer's trust 
or because, deprived of the confirmation of witnesses. He 
requires the aid of an oath. He does not act as human beings 
do, We bind ourselves by a solemn oath to swear to tell the 
whole truth. God's very utterance inspires trust. His speech 
is a solemn oath. God is to be trusted, but not because of an 
oath. Rather, the oath is to be trusted because of God, 
Wherefore, then, does Moses speak of God as if He were 
in the act of taking an oath? Because we, as mortals, are 
bound by limitations. We wrap ourselves in the folds of 
public opinion as a sea-urchin does in his shell. We act like 
a snail who cannot breathe in the free air of heaven unless 
he is protected by his shell. We behave in a similar manner 
because we are cabined and confined in the earthy recesses 
of human custom. Wherefore, since we tend to believe that 
to be true which is confirmed by a solemn oath, lest we 
should falter in our trust, the same action is ascribed to God, 
who Himself does not take an oath, but is the avenging 
judge of those who commit acts of perjury. Hence it is 
written: The Lord has sworn and he will not repent: you 
are a priest for ever.' 4 He has assuredly kept His oath. He 
has given us a High Priest for ever, in order that you may 
know that there is a sanction for your oath and that an act 
of perjury will have its avenger in Him who does not deceive. 

(44) Expelling, therefore, all uneasy and disturbing thoughts 
from your mind and heart, God will give you free and com- 
plete ownership, so that you may till the soil in full security. 
You will be able to reap a harvest therein and not permit the 
people of Chanaan to gain entrance, that is to say, you will 

4 Ps. 109.4; Heb. 5.6; 7.17. 



CAIN AND ABEL: ONE 399 

be able to avoid all offensive emotions. You will pluck out 
by root the vices of the Gentiles. You will overturn their 
groves by which truth is overshadowed and in which the clear 
vision of celestial knowledge is obscured by the dread dark- 
ness of disputation. 

(45) But you cannot attain this condition without the 
assistance of God. Therefore He said: 'He shall give it to 
thee,' 5 that is to say, He will give you thoughts that are on 
the highest plane, counsels that lead to peacefulness, and 
ideas that bring tranquility. When He has granted these 
favors, you will set apart all that opens the womb and sacrifice 
it to the Lord. God, although He has given you everything, 
does not exact anything from you. He has bestowed much in 
abundance for the use and support of men. There is no 
question of God's participations in an act of nature such as 
eating, drinking, sleeping. These and other functions of the 
body were granted to you freely by God. They are not in the 
nature of favors. However, thoughts that are holy are the 
gifts of God and are inspired by His grace. On the other hand, 
ordinary natural and human acts e do not defile a man, but 
it is what comes out of the mouth/ 6 Deceit, false testimony, 
and sacrilege are the acts which bring defilement to man. 

(46) Let us make clean, therefore, the thoughts within us, 
so that our offering may not displease. Therein let us search 
for what opens the womb, that is to say, for what is just and 
excellent, because we owe to the Lord that which is holy. 
Yet we are not sanctified by carnal copulation, by conception, 
and by parturition, whereby the womb of a woman is opened 
and her virginity destroyed. Although a wife sanctifies a 
husband and a husband the wife, 7 it frequently happens that 
a woman's womb is opened without the sanctification of 

5 Exod. 13.11. 

6 Matt. 15.11,18. 

7 Cf. 1 Cor. 7.14. 



400 SAINT AMBROSE 

wedlock. Again, it is not a question of sanctification being 
confined solely to the husband. The wife, too, partakes in it. 
The natural functions of each sex are distinct in the act of 
conception. The husband and wife contribute what is right 
and proper to the sex of each. The wife furnishes the gener- 
ation of human succession, a function which is outside the 
province of a husband. 

(47) If such, therefore, be our experience in the flesh, let 
us turn to an examination of what is proper to the soul. There 
is no question that we have to deal here with something that 
is without sex, yet it fulfills all the offices of both sexes in that 
the soul conceives and, as in marriage, gives birth* Nature 
provides woman with a womb in which a living person is 
brought to birth in the course of time. Such, too, is that 
characteristic of the soul which is ready to receive in its womb- 
like recesses the seeds of our thoughts, to cherish them and 
to bring them forth as a woman gives birth to a child. This 
and no other is the meaning of the words of Isaias: 'We have 
conceived and brought forth the spirit of salvation.' 8 Some of 
these conceptions are associated with the female sex, such 
as malice of thought, petulance, sensuality, self-indulgence, 
immodesty, and other vices of that nature which tend to 
enervate the traits associated with what is distinctively mascu- 
line. These last are the virtues of chastity, patience, wisdom, 
temperance, fortitude, and justice, which make it possible for 
our minds and bodies to struggle with zeal and confidence 
in our pursuit of virtue. These are the conceptions to which 
the Prophet Isaias referred in the words, 'We have conceived 
and brought forth the spirit of salvation, 5 that is to say, the 
characteristic masculine traits conceived and gave birth to 
the spirit of salvation, 

8 Isa. 26.18. 




BOOK TWO 

JUR SOULS SHOULD NOT ONLY CONCEIVE, but should 

bring forth, after the allotted days are fulfilled, off- 
spring such as these, lest the judgment day find us 
still-born. Of these births the Lord has said: 'Woe to those 
who are with child or have infants at the breast in those 
days!' 1 This birth should come to pass early in our lives. 
Our thoughts should be accompanied by a series of good 
works, so that our last days may find nothing imperfect or 
leave anything incompletely moulded in the anvil of our 
life's work. Make haste, therefore, and let your soul put your 
conceptions into form, bring them forth in good time, and 
quickly give sustenance to the offspring. 

(2) The form and importance of this offspring is demon- 
strated in the words of the Apostle: 'My dear children, with 
whom I am in labor again until Christ is formed in you.' 2 
This is the form into which the whole contents of our minds 
should be poured and Christ should appear conspicuously 
in the life-giving womb of our souls. Our offspring should 
be faith and our sustenance, the precepts of Wisdom. With 
these precepts the infancy of our heart should be imbued, 
its boyhood be instructed, its youth be rejuvenated, and its 

1 Luke 21.23. 

2 Gal. 4.19. 

401 



402 SAINT AMBROSE 

old age grow old and grey: 'A spotless life is old age.' 3 That 
old age of the soul is good when no stains of perfidy have 
stained it. Hence Paul defends his offspring from this stain 
'through the Gospel did I beget you/ 4 he says lest a gust 
of wind of false doctrine may severely affect them in their 
infancy. The Apostle brought into being, therefore, masculine 
thoughts. He yearned to bring to perfect manhood in the 
unity of the faith the people whom he instructed how to 
attain, in the recognition of the Son of God, 'the mature 
measure of the fullness of Christ.' 5 He knew that the sacrifice 
was an acceptable one to God, for we read in the Scriptures: 
'Thou shalt set apart all that openeth the womb for the 
Lord. 3 To this he added: 'All that opens the womb of thy 
castle and of thy herds whatsoever thou shalt have of the 
male sex, thou shalt consecrate to the Lord,' 6 so that no 
detail be missing and everything be made clear. 

(3) The Apostle had spoken of the offspring of the better 
sort, that is, all that is associated with and is capable of 
reasoning. To this category he now added those of the 
common crowd whose concern is with what might be callad 
perceptions of a lowlier kind. These are compared to cattle, 
devoid of reasoning power. However, these last, when directed 
by a righteous ruler, are easily tamed to follow his commands. 
They are trained to endure the yoke and to quicken their 
pace, to stop and turn aside at the words of their master. 
They become accustomed to perform and undertake any 
task which they are bidden to do as part of their daily routine 
of service. In this way, nature is overcome by the power of 
discipline. Those animals which do not have a share in our 
substance nevertheless recognize the words of command we 

3 Wisd. 4.9; cf. Cicero, Pro Archia 7.16. 

4 1 Cor. 4..15. 

5 Eph. 4.13. 

6 Exocl. 13.12. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 403 

give. While they are not themselves possessed of reason by 
nature, they assume by a sort of transfer the reasoning powers 
that we have in our own nature. We see horses which are 
aroused to action by the enthusiasm of the crowd, which 
rejoice in applause and pleasure in being petted by their 
master. 7 We perceive that fierce lions lay aside their natural 
ferocity and at command assume an air of submission. They 
throw off their wild natures and adopt our manners and, 
although they are themselves objects of terror, they learn 
even to have fear. A dog is slain to inspire fear in a lion. The 
animal who is aroused to anger because of injury to himself 
is curbed by beholding one inflicted on another, whereby 
his will is broken. How often it happens that they learn to 
endure hunger even at the sight of their favorite food! 
How often through fear of their master do they under quick 
and unexpected orders refrain from food even when their 
jaws are ready to devour it! Thus they become oblivious of 
their own wills while complying with ours. How different 
from those wild animals or those herds of horses or flocks 
of any kind which run wild without anyone to control them ! 
Deprived of any guidance or direction, they give free vent 
to their wild nature. This is the reason for placing herdsmen, 
shepherds, and guard of all sorts in charge of animals. Each 
one performs his individual duty, directing his charges in 
accordance with the type of animal committed to his care. 

(4) We see, therefore, that man is governed by two 
sorts of emotion, one that is under control and the other 
uncontrollable. In the latter case man rushes headlong, 
carried away by his animal nature, which itself lacks stability 
and co-ordination, into physical pleasures which are devoid 
of reason. In the former instance man's emotions are disci- 
plined, subject, as it were, to the guidance and moderating 

7 Cf. Virgil, Georgics 3.185,186. 



404 SAINT AMBROSE 

influence of a leader. Whenever man's nature is under 
control, there it shows itself to be masculine and perfect. 
When, however, man's nature acts without a ruling force, 
there we find evidence of what might be called a domination 
exercised and imposed on man by the meaner sort. Thus 
we have a situation wherein a community which is deprived 
of the counsels of its king and chief citizens is subject to 
weakness in its body politics and wastes away its strength in 
effeminate action. Hence the apostolic injunction regarding 
the law in the members warring against the law of the mind, 
making a person a prisoner to the law of sin. Wherefore, in 
order to deliver himself from the body of this death, Paul 
placed his hopes, not in his own virtue, but in the grace of 
Christ. 8 It is clear, therefore, that those emotions which are 
in accordance with the law of the mind emanate from God's 
goodness, whereas all other emotions are dominated by the 
body. 

(5) Those emotions, therefore, which are morally good are 
the first-fruits of our senses, whereas the others are of com- 
mon and indifferent stock. This classification was used by 
Moses, following in that respect the language of the Jews, 
in his reference to the threshing floor of the Law: "The 
tithes of your threshing floor and of your wine-vat thou 
shalt not delay to pay; thou shalt give the first born of thy 
sons to me. 39 All the morally good emotions of your senses 
are the first fruits of the threshing floor of the soul in such 
a manner as grain is separated in an actual barn floor. 10 
On this barn floor the wheat and the barley are separated 
by a winnowing process from the chaff and from other 
impurities, while the solid parts, now rid of their lighter 
coating, settle on the floor. In a similar fashion our thoughts, 

8 Cf. Rom. 7.23-25, 

9 Exod. 22.29. 

10 Cf. Num. 15.20. 



CAIN AND ABEL: TWO 405 

when sifted, provide a solid food and pure nourishment for 
the exercise of virtue, as we read in the Scriptures: 'Not by 
bread alone does man live, but by every word of God.' 11 
What is of no real value is dispersed like smoke or like a 
mist, which presents opportunities for the exercise of wicked- 
ness, while at the same time it is deleterious to one's eyes. 
Wickedness is rightfully compared to smoke which obscures 
one's vision with the darkness of this world. 12 

(6) On this subject the Lord says: 'When you are come 
into the land to which I bring you and shall eat of the bread 
of that country, you shall separate first-fruits of the Lord of 
the thing you eat. As you separate first-fruits of your barn- 
floors, so also shall you give first-fruits of your dough to the 
Lord.' 13 We are a composite of diverse elements mixed to- 
gether, cold with hot, and moist with dry. This admixture 
is the source of many pleasures and manifold delights of the 
flesh. But these are not the first-fruits of this body of ours. 
Since we are composed of soul and body and spirit, the first 
place is held by that admixture in which the Apostle desires 
that we find sanctification : 'And may the God of peace 
himself sanctify you completely and may your spirit and 
soul and body be preserved sound, blameless at the coming 
of our Lord Jesus Christ.' 14 The first-fruit of this admixture 
are those of the spirit, that is to say, the creative and gen- 
erating thoughts that emanate from the soul in its vigor. 
Only those thoughts are first-fruits which are devoid of malice 
and wickedness and all kinds of wrong-doing. There are, of 
course, certain bodily pleasures which are necessary. These 
are the pleasures of eating, sleeping, drinking, walking, and 
like functional processes. These, however, are not in the cate- 

11 Luke 4.4. 

12 Cf. Prov. 10.26. 

13 Num. 15.18-21. 

14 1 Thess. 5.23. 



406 SAINT AMBROSE 

gory of first-fruits. The Lord has put His stamp of approval, 
not on these, but on the others which we have mentioned, 
those thoughts and actions which imply chastity, piety, faith, 
and devotion. A clear example of this sort of thing is the 
offering of the patriarch Isaac. Here a father, totally immune 
to human emotion, proceeded to an act of sacrifice. He 
offered to God a clean victim and one devoid of fear and of 
cupidity of the flesh, although one might expect that his 
eagerness to offer would give way to his very real devotion 
as a father. 

Chapter 2 

( 7 ) Let us consider the implications of the word 'first-fruits.' 
Should they be measured from the point of view of time or 
of sanctity, in other words, does everything that is first-born 
have the sanctity of first-fruit? First-fruits are sanctified 
according to the Law, 1 because therein we find the best kind 
of sacrifice, one which presents evidence of speedy fulfilment 
of a vow. Again, first-fruits become sanctified, not by time, 
but by devotion. The produce does not itself alone constitute 
sanctity. Hence, if the produce of the soil comes forth 
speedily without an accompanying fulfilment of a vow, an 
offence is committed. Not all first-born are therefore sancti- 
fied, but everything sanctified is also first-born. Hence, Cain 
was first-born, but not sanctified. Sanctified, too, was Israel, 
God's people, but they were not first in time. Yet Israel is called 
first-born, as it is written in the books of the Prophets: 'Israel 
is my first-born.' 2 And Levi was sanctified, but he was not first- 
born, for we hear that he was Lia's third son. 3 Furthermore, 
the Levites were called first-born. Their name is derived from 

1 Cf. Num. 18.8,10. 

2 Exod. 4.22. 

3 Cf. Gen. 29.54. 



CAIN AND ABEL: TWO 407 

that fact, as it is written in Numbers: 'Behold, I have taken 
the Levites from the children of Israel, for every first-born that 
openeth the womb among the children of Israel and the 
Levites shall be mine, for every first-born in mine. Since I 
struck every first-born in the land of Egypt, I have sanctified 
whatever is first born in Israel.' 4 Therefore, the Levites were 
called first-born who were preferred by reason of their sancti- 
fication far beyond the rest of the children of Israel. Where- 
fore, listen to what the Apostle says in regard to the first-born : 
'But you have come to Mount Sion and to the city of the 
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to the company 
of tens of thousands of angels and to the first-born of the 
churches which were enrolled in heaven. 55 He has set down in 
order here four things: Mt. Sion, the city of Jerusalem, the 
company of the angels, and the churches of the first-born. The 
Lord took, therefore, the Levites from the midst of the people 
of Israel because He did not wish that they be involved in 
human cares. Rather, He wished to make them ministers 
of religion, and He set aside for Himself the first-born who 
open the womb of the Spirit. Hence they were not from 
the womb of nature like sinners given over to wrong-doing 
of all sorts, but are chosen for their avoidance of worldly 
things. Wherefore they have no part in what belongs to the 
crown and are not reckoned as part of the populace. They 
possess the Word of God in their own hearts, as we read in 
the Gospel: 'Where two or three are gathered together for 
my sake, there I am in the midst of them.' And elsewhere: 
'In the midst of you there stands one whom you do not know/ 6 
(8) We realize, therefore, that above all things our trust 
in God should commend us to Him. Once we have this trust, 

4 Num. 3.12,13. 

5 Heb. 12.20,23. The manuscripts here have the plural ecclesiarum; 
Schenkl would read ecclesi&e, 

6 Matt. 18.20: John 1.26. 



408 SAINT AMBROSE 

let us put all our efforts into making our works perfect. This 
is indeed a full and perfect sacrifice, as the Lord tells us 
Himself in speaking of gifts and contributions that are His: 
5 You will offer to me my oblation in my festal days, 57 sparing 
nothing, setting nothing aside, but offering a full, complete, 
and perfect sacrifice. By 'festal day 5 is meant the Lord's Day, 
a time appropriate to acts of perfect virtue. These acts are 
made perfect if our souls quell the anxieties of this world 
and the enticements of the flesh in a victorious struggle 
over pleasure and its attractions. Thus the soul is free from 
the world and dedicated to God, departing not even in the 
slightest way from the path of good intentions and casting 
aside all distractions, whether of pleasure or of toil The wise 
man, and no one else, celebrates with due solemnity this 
festal day. How difficult it is for one to be completely immune 
from distractions of this sort! Then you may learn to know 
the difference between what is a masculine and what is a 
feminine trait, for there is no virtue without toil and toil is 
a stepping stone to virtue. The very words of the Law point 
this out: 'The first-born of an ass thou shalt change for a 
sheep, 58 The Law has established that an unclean animal 
shall not be part of a sacrifice, but in its place a clean 
animal be offered. The Law orders that the offspring of an 
ass which is unclean should be changed for a sheep, which 
is a clean animal and suitable for sacrifice. This is the 
literal meaning. If one were to pursue this matter further 
and seek for the spiritual sense of this passage, he will discover 
that the ass is a laborious animal, whereas the sheep is 
productive. This may be interpreted to mean that labor 
should be exchanged for produce, since the final results of 
work is the produce thereof. Or we may interpret the passage 

7 Num. 28.2. 

8 Exoci. 13.13. 



CAIN AND ABEL: TWO 409 

in this manner: Every action or labor of yours you can 
make commendable by the pure and simple manner in which 
you perform it. 

(9) 'And if thou do not redeem it,' we are told, 'thou 
shalt kill it. 59 The order literally states that another animal 
be offered for the unclean one or be redeemed by a price, 
lest there be something inferior or something unclean in 
the tithe offering. If we examine more deeply into the 
meaning of this, we perceive that we should refrain from 
anything which is destined to bear no fruit. He who redeems 
does, in fact, free himself and in doing so pays off a certain 
amount of indebtedness. Those works should be avoided 
which do not lead to real fruitfulness and to good results. I 
refer to those works of a wordly sort which cannot long 
endure. These works are barren, and devoid of truth and, 
though they are pursued with the greatest diligence, provide 
nothing for the soul. All of those works that impose servitude 
on our souls are of no avail, even if they are not entirely 
lacking in effectiveness. A mighty victory can, for example, 
take place and the accompanying glory of a triumphal march. 
But we discover frequently that these same people see their 
previous victory now changed to defeat. The tables are turned 
when the issue of war finds them in the hands of their 
enemies. Those who were victorious before now taste the 
misery of defeat. It is imperative, therefore, that you direct 
all your labors towards God and obtain His approval. The 
athlete, for example, relies on his own powers, not on those 
of another, in order to win a victory. But then, when the 
spectacle begins, he inclines to doubt his chances. When he 
has attained the crown of victory, then he becomes aware 
that this worldly glory fades away more quickly than the very 
leaves of his wreath of victory. When a pilot brings his ship 

9 Ibid. 



410 SAINT AMBROSE 

to shore, he gives no thought to putting an end to his labors. 
He searches immediately for still another opportunity to 
work. When the soul is released from the body and has 
reached a terminus of this life, there is still the dubious 
problem of the judgment to come. What is thought to be a 
terminus turns out to none at all. Wherefore let us by our 
prayers, our purity of conscience, and our spirit of charity 
cling closely to our God. Let us gain His favor by beseeching 
Him to rescue and free us from the cares of this world as 
from some cruel and boorish master. 10 Let the substance of 
our prayers be that we be released from slavery 11 to this 
world, so that we may obtain the liberty of celestial knowl- 
edge, wherein alone is true freedom. 



Chapter 3 

(10) What is related in the Law may be cited in support 
of our argument. When the Egyptians oppressed the Jewish 
people by condemning them to various labors, to toils in 
rocky or in muddy soil, the children of Israel groaned and 
caused the Lord to have pity on them. And He said to 
Moses: C I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel, 
wherewith the Egyptians have oppressed them into slavery, 
and I have remembered my covenant. Therefore say to the 
children of Israel: I am the Lord who will bring you out of 
the power of the Egyptians and will deliver you from bondage 
to them and redeem you with a high arm and great judg- 
ments. And I will take you to myself for my people. I will be 
your God. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God 
who will bring you out of the power of the Egyptians and 
will bring you into the land, concerning which I lifted up 

10 Cf. Cicero, De senectute 14.47, 

11 Cf. Virgil, Eclogues 1.40. 



GAIN AND ABEL: TWO 411 

my hand.' 1 See how the Hebrew people enjoyed the fruits 
of their labor. They toiled in the mire with the hope of an 
eternal kingdom. Wherefore in the Scriptures the Lord took 
pity even on the empty toil of the Gentiles in the brickyards, 
a prey to filthy superstition and the pleasures of the flesh. 
A solid wall of faith, however, they were unable to build. 
Christ addresses the people as if speaking to the offspring of 
a beast of burden: 'Come to me, all ye who labor, and I 
will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from 
me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find 
rest for your souls. 52 I seem to be more fully aware of the 
words and the secret meaning of the Law when I read 
that call of Christ. He has taught us that an ass should be 
exchanged for a sheep or redeemed for a price. In this way 
we not only can exchange an ass for a sheep, that is, an 
animal that is unclean for one that is clean, but we can even 
redeem it. A deeper meaning seems to be implied in this 
statement. If by a sacrifice of purification and by the rite of 
baptism we first cleanse ourselves of the stains of our offenses, 
then we are prepared to redeem those very sins of ours by 
the exercise of good works and by the price of faith and 
by contrition. 

(11) Our price is the blood of Christ. Hence the Apostle 
Peter says: 'Not with gold or silver you were redeemed, but 
with the precious blood.' And Paul says: 'You have been 
bought with a price. Do not become the slaves of men.' 3 
Therefore, not without reason did they marvel in the Gospel 
on seeing the Lord Jesus sitting on a colt, because the race 
of the Gentiles is to Christ like a victim which, according to 
the Law, is considered to be unclean. Hence we read in the 
Scriptures that the Levites redeemed them. 4 In this way they 

1 Exod. 6.5-8, cf. 2.23,24. 
3 Matt. 11,28,29. 

3 1 Peter 1.18; 1 Cor. 7.23. 

4 Cf. Exod. 13.13. 



412 SAINT AMBROSE 

would be able by the sanctity of their lives and by their 
prayers to take away the sins of their people. Here in the 
figure of the Lamb we have the true Levite who was to come 
and preside over the mysteries. By His own Passion He would 
take away the sins of the world. 5 The word 'Levite' means 
'raised up for me' or 'on me he is light/ The word 'Levite' 
bears witness to a perfection in virtue by which the people 
attain holiness. He, therefore, is the expected who was born 
of a virgin and who came for my salvation and for the 
salvation of the entire world. For me He was sacrificed; for 
me He tasted death; and for me, too, He rose from the dead. 
In Him has the redemption of all men been undertaken; in 
Him is their resurrection. He is the true Levite. We, His 
Levites, He would bring closer to God so that we might pray 
to Him unceasingly, hope for salvation from Him, shun all 
worldly affairs, and finally be numbered among the elect, 
as it is written: 'O Lord, possess us/ 6 Then alone is found 
true possession when we are not subject to the temptations 
of life and when we bring forth perfect fruit for all time. 
The Levite is one who redeems, because a man of wisdom 
redeems the man who is weak and foolish. He is like a 
physician who revives the spirit of his helpless patient. In 
imitation of that Physician who came down from heaven, 
he assuages the convalescent with healing words of wisdom, 
in order to point out to men the ways of wisdom and to 
reveal the paths of wisdom to little ones. 7 He perceived that 
those who suffer cannot be healed without a remedy. For 
this reason He bestowed medicine on the sick and by His 
assistance made health available to all, so that whoever died 
could ascribe to himself the real causes of his death. That 
man was unwilling to be cured, although he had a remedy 

5 Cf. John 1.29. 

6 Exod. 34.9. 

7 Cf. Ps, 18.8; Matt. 11.25, 



CAIN AND ABEL: TWO 413 

at hand which could effect his escape from death. The mercy 
of God has been made manifest to all. Those who perish, 
therefore, perish through their own negligence, whereas 
those who are saved are freed by the judgment of God, who 
wishes all men to be saved and to come to the recognition 
of truth. 8 Hence, if Sodom had fifty just men, it would not 
have been destroyed. If it had ten just men, Sodom would 
have been saved, 9 because a declaration of the remission of 
sin would have rescued their souls from servitude, and the 
plenitude of perfect knowledge would not have allowed 
their hearts to be consumed in the devouring flames of lust. 
(12) The reference just noted to people in large numbers 
has a special significance. Groups of people of like character 
have a tendency to lift the moral tone and to contribute to 
society as a whole something of their own selves, which is a 
contributory factor to the group's preservation. Numbers 
blunt the force of envy, confound wickedness, arouse men to 
virtue, and enhance gracious acts. No one ought to begrudge 
praise to another person who benefits him. The man given 
to wickedness often imitates the character of the person who 
attempts to aid him. At any rate, he reveres him and often 
even loves him. The same man, too, if he knows how to 
benefit other men, is made better by this exercise of his zeal. 
In that way he binds people together and increases the toler- 
ance of citizens for each other, thereby bringing fame to 
their communities. How happy is that city which has many 
just men! How celebrated does it become in the lips of all 
men ! How unqualifiedly blessed for ever is that city reckoned 
to be ! How happy I am to see so many gentle and wise people 
live long lives, when I behold chaste maidens and dignified 
and elderly widows living virtuous lives ! The latter constitute 

8 Cf. John 3.16-21; Luke 19.10. 

9 Cf. Gen. 18.24-32. 



414 SAINT AMBROSE 

in a way a venerable senate of the Church to be revered and 
imitated because of their conspicuous air of gravity a fact 
which is conducive in itself to greater charm of manners! 
My joy is not for these people themselves who are subject to 
the manifold ills of this world while they are alive. I rejoice,, 
rather, that many are benefited by the lives of such people. 
Again, when a person like this passes away, although he has 
by his prolonged age deferred death, 10 I am greatly afflicted 
for the reason that a host of younger men have been deprived 
of the stout defence of old age. Wherefore the demise of 
citizens of dignity and wisdom, both men and women, gives 
us the first ..indication that a city is destined to perish or that 
ruin is imminent. When this takes place, the gates are open 
for a flood of misfortunes. A city, therefore, in its entirety 
is strengthened by the presence of men of wisdom in its midst 
and is weakened at their departure. If their physical presence 
is important, their discourse, also, when it is in a high plane 
of serious counsel, tends to put courage in the heart and soul 
of each and every individual. If we add to this the practice 
of wide reading, 11 then we have a group of senators whose 
wise precepts and counsel constantly have their effects in 
that interior city which is in the heart of each one of us. 



Chapter 4 

(13) We see, then, why Moses called the Levites first-born 
and redeemers of others, since they offer to one man the 
mentality of old age, corresponding to his own mature 
judgment and usefulness, and to another grant redemption. 
Hence Moses indicated that the cities of the Levites in the 

10 Cf. Virgil, Aeneid 12.395. 

11 Cf. Cicero, De senectute 11.38. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 415 

Old Testament served as a refuge, 1 because he who fled to 
where the living Word of God resides, 2 a place like a city 
well-protected and defended, that person attained for himself 
the kind of liberty which endures. If a man was guilty of 
involuntary homicide and if he took refuge in the cities of the 
Levites, no one was permitted to slay that person, provided 
he had his residence in those cities. In a similar way, if a 
person feels sorrow for a sin which was the result of an 
imprudent or involuntary act, the Law releases him from 
every penalty due to his crime, provided he remains in resi- 
dence among the Levites and .has no intention of leaving 
those instructors who dispense the commands of God. 

(14) Do not think it unreasonable that men given to evil 
reside together with men of good will and that those stained 
with guilt live side by side with the godly. Those men who 
have been polluted with the contagion of sin have need of 
purification. Thus there is a certain agreement of contraries. 
The Levite who has relinquished the pleasures of this world is 
an exile from guilt. In the same way, the person who is guilty 
of homicide is a fugitive from his native land. There is this 
difference, however, that the latter abandons his people 
because of fear of the Law, whereas God's minister renounces 
all contacts with human passions and frees himself from the 
exigencies of concupiscence by his pursuit of virtue. This 
statement is not an exaggeration. In a sense, the Levite does 
violence to himself, so as to rid himself of bodily pleasures 
with consequent annihilation of his own flesh. For example, 
Moses slew an Egyptian and become a fugitive from the 
land of Egypt so as to avoid the king of that land. 3 But he 
would not have slain the Egyptian if he had not first destroyed 
in himself the Egyptian of spiritual wickedness and had not 
relinquished the luxuries and honors of the king's palace. 

1 Cf. Num. 3.12; 35.6-8, 

2 Cf. John 1.14. 

3 Cf. Exod. 2.11. 



4 1 6 SAINT AMBROSE 

He considered that the reproach of Christ was a far better 
patrimony than the treasures of Egypt. To the foolish this 
indeed seeems to be a reproach, but the reproach of the Cross 
of Christ is in reality God's power and wisdom. 4 

(15) There are, in fact, two main types of power in God. 
There is the power which forgives and the power which 
punishes. Sins are forgiven by the Word of God of which 
the Levite is the interpreter and, indeed, the executor. Sins 
are forgiven by the priest in his sacred office and ministry. 
They are punished, too, by men who exercise power tempo- 
rarily, that is to say, by judges. The Apostle says: 'Dost thou 
wish then not to fear the authority? Do what is good and 
thou wilt have praise from it. For it is God's minister to thee 
for good. But if thou dost what is evil, fear, for not without 
reason does it carry the sword. For it is God's minister, an 
avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil.' 5 Sins are 
punished even by people, as we read in the Scriptures, 6 
because the Jewish people were often waylaid by men of 
other races. Because of some offense against God's majesty 
these men were frequently aroused by His command. Even 
the person who unwittingly committed a murder was still 
within the ministry of God, since the Law makes this state- 
ment regarding him: God delivered him into his hands.' 7 
His hands, therefore, served as an instrument of divine 
punishment. The Levite is, then, the minister who remits, 
whereas the man who in the example just cited unwittingly 
and unwillingly struck another in a homicidal act became in 
fact an administrator of divine punishment. See to it that 
Christ is infused into the act of slaying an impious man 
and that sanctification accompany and be part of your 
attempt to abolish what is abominable. 

4 Cf. 1 Cor. 1.23-25. 

5 Rom. 13.3,4. 

6 Cf. Isa. 13.17. 

7 Exo<l. 21,13. 



CAIN AND ABEL: TWO 417 

(16) The Lord has said: 'On that day in which I shall 
slay every first-born in the land of Egypt, I shall sanctify to 
myself whatsoever is first-born in Israel.' 8 This does not refer 
to one occasion or to one crisis, but to all time. Once wicked- 
ness is renounced, virtue finds immediate entrance. The 
departure of evil brings about the introduction of virtue and 
the same effort that banishes crime leads to an adherence 
to innocence. You have an example of that in the Gospel. 
At the moment when Satan entered into the heart of Judas, 
Christ departed from him. At the very instant that Judas 
received one, he lost the other: 'And after the morsel Satan 
entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, "What thou 
dost, do quickly." 9 Why is this? Because, once Satan found 
entrance into Judas, at that moment there came about his 
departure from Christ. He is ejected, then, and banished, 
since the person who trafficked with the Devil could have 
no fellowship with Christ. There is no harmony between 
Christ and Belial. 10 Wherefore, on receiving the command 
to leave, Judas immediately departed, as we read in the words 
of the Evangelist: 'When he had received the morsel, he 
went out quickly. Now it was night.' 11 It was not merely a 
question of departure, but it was one which was immediate 
and at night. The fact that one who deserted Christ should 
be connected with the darkness of night should excite no 
wonder. Just as the person who is received by the Devil is 
excluded from Christ, so on the other hand Zacchaeus, at 
the moment when he forsook gain, proceeded to welcome 
Christ. Marveling at the way Zacchaeus climbed a tree to 
see Him, the Lord was moved to say: 'Zacchaeus, make 
haste and come down, for I must stay in your house today. 
And he made haste and came down, and welcomed him 

8 Num. 3.13. 

9 Cf. John 13.2,27. 

10 Cf. 2 Cor. 6.15. 

11 John 13.13. 



418 SAINT AMBROSE 

joyfully. 512 By receiving Christ he got rid of avarice. He sent 
perfidy into exile and renounced deceit. Otherwise, there 
is no reason for the entrance of Christ unless vice is excluded, 
because He has no barter with wrong-doing. Hence He 
ejected the money-changers from the temple, because He 
did not wish to associate with them. 13 Wherefore, being 
aware that he could not receive Christ if he followed his old 
way of life, Zacchaeus ordered his former vices to leave his 
home in order that Christ might find an entrance therein. 
While people murmured that Jesus had gone to be a guest 
of a man who was a sinner, Zacchaeus was right in inviting 
the Lord to stay: 'Behold, Lord, I give one-half of my pos- 
sessions to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone of 
anything, I restore it twofold. 314 In this way he replied to 
those who said that a sinner ought not to offer hospitality to 
Christ. He said, in effect: 'I am no longer a publican, no 
longer the Zacchaeus of old, the thief and the cheat. I restore 
what I have taken, I, who used to take, am now the 
giver. I, who formerly despoiled the poor, now make resti- 
tution. I, who plundered what belonged to others, now give 
of my own. 3 Error took to flight, once Christ made entrance. 
Where the light of eternal light shone, there no longer 
existed that blindness caused by pleasures of the flesh. 

Chapter 5 

(17) We have discussed the problems connected with the 
first-born. Now let us turn our attention to the characteristic 
of fatness or richness of which David speaks intelligibly when 
he says: 'Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness. 5 
Before that he had said: 'And may thy whole burnt offering 

12 Luke 19.5,6. 

13 Cf. Matt. 21.12,13. 

14 Luke 19.7-9. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 419 

be made fat. 51 By this he means that the requirements for a 
sacrifice are that it be fat or rich, that it be glistening and 
that it be weighted with the sustenance inspired by faith and 
devotion and by the rich nourishment of the Word of God. 
Frequently we use the word 'fat 3 or 'rich 5 when we refer 
to something that is heavily and elaborately adorned, and 
to the finest victim as one that is not thin and scrawny. 
Wherefore we denominate as 'rich' a sacrifice which we 
desire to be regarded as the 'finest. 5 We also have proof of 
this when we consult the prophetic passage in the Scriptures 
where fine cows are compared to years of fertility. 2 



Chapter 6 

(18) Now let us reflect on the meaning of the Lord's 
words, 'If you offer rightly and you do not divine rightly, 
thou hast sinned. Hold thy peace.' 1 This signifies that God is 
not appeased by the gifts that are offered, but by the dispo- 
sition of the giver. Hence Cain, who offered a gift which 
was denounced, was conscious of the fact that his offering 
was fraudulent, that his sacrifice was not acceptable to God, 
and he was downcast. When 'the mind is conscious of right,' 2 
then there is occasion for veritable joy a joy of the spirit 
when one's purpose and deeds are commendable to God. 
Cain's sadness, therefore, bears testimony to his consciousness 
of right and is an indication of his failure. Again, because 
he offered a gift and did not in addition make a just and 
righteous division of it, for that reason he fell into error. 

(19) There are four ways by which a sacrifice may be 

1 Ps. 62.6; 19.4. 

2 Cf. Gen. 41.26. 

1 Cf. Gen. 4.7. 

2 Virgil, Aeneid 1.604. 



420 SAINT AMBROSE 

made acceptable. The sacrifice should consist of a gift, the 
newest of the new, or it should be dried or broken into 
pieces, or it should be unbroken. 3 The 'newest of the new' 
belongs to the early season of the year and is consistent with 
the nature of first-fruits. Now, it has been made clear to 
us that this refers to those who are renewed by the sacrament 
of baptism. That., in fact, is the real sacrifice of first-fruits 
when a person offers himself as a victim and begins of himself 
to act so as to ensure in the future an offering of a gift that 
is his very own. 4 The new faith of those who have been 
made new is strong and vigorous, seeking for itself an 
increase of virtue. The faith which is weak and slack the 
faith which has the sluggish and slothful character of old 
age is not one that is fit for sacrifice. We need a faith 
which blossoms with the lush growth of wisdom and with 
the youthful vigor of divine knowledge, a faith, moreover, 
which has the sap of ancient doctrine. There ought to be a 
concurrence of the old and the new, as in the case of the 
Old and the New Testament. It is written: 'Eat the oldest 
of the old store and, new coming on, cast away the old.' 5 
Let our food be a knowledge of the patriarchs. Let our 
minds banquet in the prophetic books of the Prophets. Such 
nourishment should our minds partake of, the truth of the 
body of Christ, and not just the external appearance of a 
lamb. Our eyes should not be affected by the shadow cast 
by the Law. Rather, the clear grace of the Lord's Passion 
and the splendor of His Resurrection should illuminate our 
vision. 

(20) If you offer a sacrifice of the first-born of a sheep, 
a rich burned offering, then you should make an offering 
of those first-fruits as they are specified in Scripture, according 

3 Cf. Lev. 2.14. 

4 Cf. Rom. 12.1,6. 

5 Lev. 26.10. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 42 1 

to which your faith ought to be tested as if by fire and ought 
to glow with the Holy Spirit. Hence Jacob cooked a mess 
of pottage and thus took the benefits from his own brother, 
who would surely have attained them by the exercise of a 
robust faith. One, therefore, increased in strength and vigor, 
while the other, who was unable to cook his own food, 
became weak and feeble. 6 Let your soul acquire virtue by 
being burnt, as with fire, by the Word of God. See the 
example of Joseph: 'The word of the Lord inflamed him.' 7 
Let your faith be roasted like the ears of corn gathered by 
the harvesters, who choose to gather in the crop soon after 
it has been browned in the heat of the sun. Frequent reading 
of the Scriptures, therefore, strengthens the mind and ripens 
it by the warmth of spiritual grace. In this way our powers 
of reasoninng are strengthened and the influence of our 
irrational passions brought to naught. Wherefore Esau was 
weakened when the bonds of virtue were loosed, while those 
who girded up their loins and were bidden not to eat 'any- 
thing raw nor boiled in water, 5 but who were ordered to 
eat the head of a lamb roasted in the fire, as it is written in 
Exodus these men with stout and trusting hearts crossed 
the sea on dry ground. 8 In the Gospel, too, the Lord ate 'a 
piece of broiled fish,' 9 whereby the plenitude of His Spirit 
was renewed. Perhaps Esau was weak because he desired 
food that was cooked in water. Food which was unsuitable 
for himself Jacob gave to one who was infirm. 

(21 ) Our offerings and our prayers ought not to be lacking 
in order. On the contrary, they should follow a precise pat- 
tern. In every case where there is disorder there is room for 
precision. Especially is this true of prayers and sacrifices which 

6 Cf. Gen, 25.29,30. 

7 Ps. 104.19. 

8 Cf. Exod. 12.9-11. 

9 Luke 24.42. 



422 SAINT AMBROSE 

lack clarity unless they have clear divisions. Hence the Law 
commands that the limbs of a victim be cut up, for the most 
part. 10 The Law also commands that holocausts be offered, 
so that the sacrifice be pure without admixture or covering. 
The reason is that our faith, pure and devoid of all externals, 
may thus become fervent. In that way our faith may not be 
enshrouded in dubious and false opinion, but appear in its 
pure and unadorned simplicity. Again, faith may be divided 
into suitable parts. Virtue, in fact, is such that is can be 
divided into several species, the chief of which are four: 
Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice. Let your 
prayer, therefore, give forth a fragrance of Prudence, aiming 
at knowledge of God and the truth of faith. Let it have the 
fragrance of Temperance, a virtue which the Apostle believed 
should be required of married people: 'Do not deprive each 
other, except perhaps by consent, for a time, that you may 
give yourselves to prayer.' The Law commands that these 
who intend to perform a sacrifice be chaste for one or two 
days previous. 11 Let your prayer show fortitude, so as not 
to be interrupted by fear nor be affected by weariness. Pres- 
sure of adversity should make us all the more strenuous in 
prayer. Our supplications should retain an element of Justice. 
If Judas had adhered to that virtue, his prayer would not 
have become sinful. At what time ought we to refrain from 
unjust thoughts and deeds if not when we call upon the 
justice of God? And so the Lord recommends us to seek 
justice, saying: 'Blessed are they who suffer persecution for 
justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' 12 Judas 
did not have this justice; otherwise, he would not have 
betrayed his Lord and Master. Cain, too, did not possess 
this virtue; otherwise, he would have offered to the Lord 

10 Cf. Lev. 24.42. 

11 1 Cor. 7.5; cf. Exod. 19.10-15. 

12 Matt. 6.33; 5.10. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 423 

first-fruits of the soil, not those of inferior quality. So, too, 
he failed to divide his gifts into parts. Hence the reply: 'If 
you offer rightly and you do not divide equally, thou hast 
sinned. Hold thy peace.' 13 You see the seriousness of the 
offense. Where is no division into parts, then the whole sacri- 
fice comes to naught. 

(22) One question remains for us to discuss. How much 
time should we spend in prayer? The Lord spent a night in 
prayer. 14 He did this not for His own benefit, but that He 
might teach us a lesson. Frequent prayer tends to strengthen 
our wills, so that we become more amenable to God's pur- 
poses through practice, just as we may become less amenable 
through indifference. Exercise of this sort, therefore, is salu- 
tary. The body's strength is increased by frequent exercise. 
Lack of exercise tends to diminish or weaken our bodies. In 
fact, persons who refrain from exercise lose even that strength 
which is natural to them. In like manner, fortitude of the 
soul is enhanced by a course of exercises. The very toil 
expended in such practice will, in the end, turn out to be 
advantageous rather than useless. Let us give our souls this 
nourishment, which, like the bread of God from heaven, 15 
will, if it is sifted and refined by long meditation, produce 
real strength in our hearts. Not without reason is the bread 
described as sifted and refined, because we ought with our 
whole heart and soul to sift and polish for a long period of 
time the teachings of holy Scripture in order that the essence 
of that spiritual food may suffuse the very depths of our souls. 
Wherefore, if our faith blossoms forth in the spirit of youth, 
relinquishing the enfeeblement of ageif our faith should 
glow within, adhering to the principle of due division accord- 
mg to the Law, and if we acquire grace by constancy then 

13 Gen. 4.7. 

14 Cf, Luke 6.12. 

15 Cf. John 6..S2. 



424 SAINT AMBROSE 

we attain to that rich and, so to speak, unctions type of 
prayer of which the Prophet speaks: Thou hast anointed 
my head with oil 516 Just as lambs become fat from a plenteous 
store of milk and as sheep become sleek from rich pasture 
land, so, too, the prayers of the faithful profit much from 
drinking in the health-giving words of the Apostles. 

(23) If any of the conditions which we have named is 
not fulfilled, a sacrifice is not approved. Wherefore Cain was 
warned : 'If you make a righteous sacrifice, you should divide 
in no unrighteous way,' because the world itself, we are told, 
was separated into parts. Its previous condition was chaotic, 
for 'the earth was waste and void. 9 First of all, light was 
created and God called it by name and 'God divided the 
light from the darkness and He called the darkness night. 317 
We read of each of the world's objects created in due order, 
of the firmament, the earth, the fruit-bearing trees, and the 
various species of animals. Lighter elements, such as air and 
fire, were given a higher position, while the heavier elements, 
such as water and earth, were placed below them. God 
could, of course, have commanded all to be created at the 
same time, but He preferred to keep them separate, This 
procedure we now follow in all our business affairs and 
especially in our social amenities. It is not sufficient to return 
what you actually received. You must make the return an 
acceptable one. To slight in any way a person to whom you 
feel indebted is much more vexatious than not to pay a debt 
at all. Therefore, it is the spirit in which you act and the 
very way in which you make your acknowledgment that 
count, rather than the material itself of your presentation. 
In this way, it is true, a person makes an offering which 
follows th e pattern of correctness sufficient to indicate his 

16 Ps. 22.5. 

17 Gen. 1.2,3. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 425 

devotion and his gratitude. Still, such a person has not yet 
made a due distinction. He ought, first of all, to give first-fruits 
to God so as to attain God's favor. In fact, the division 
should proceed in the following way: What is primary 
should precede what is secondary, rather than contrariwise. 
What belongs to heaven should take precedence over what 
is of the earth not the earthly over what belongs to the 
heavens. 

Chapter 7 

(24) Because Cain disturbed this order, he was told: 
'Thou hast sinned. Hold thy peace!' All this is the teaching 
of God: first, that you should not sin, as He had warned 
Adam; and, second, that, if you have fallen into sin, you 
should hold your peace, as Cain was instructed to do. We 
ought to condemn sin and be ashamed of it. We should not 
apologize for it, because by our shame our fault is diminished, 
whereas sin is increased by our attempts to justify it. We 
undergo correction by keeping silent, whereas we stumble 
into error by our contentions. Let there be at least a feeling 
of humiliation where there is no occasion for forgiveness. 
Hence we have the statement: "The just is first accuser of 
himself.' Elsewhere we read the words of the Lord Himself: 
'Tell if thou hast anything to justify thyself.' 2 How great is 
the power of shamefacedness, which obtains that justice 
which the accusation of guilt has taken away! And so He 
says: 'Hold thy peace,' since you have no excuse to offer. 
You have it in your power to be weaned away from sin. The 
blame is not to be laid on one's brother, but the wrong-doing 
is to be attributed to the one who is really to blame. 'The sin 
returns to you,' we are told the sin which began with you. 

1 Gen. 4.7. 

2 Prov. 18.17; Isa. 43.26. 



426 SAINT AMBROSE 

You cannot plead necessity rather than intent. Your wicked- 
ness has come back on you like a boomerang. Thou hast 
dominion over it.' 3 

(25) This statement (Thou hast dominion over it') is 
well expressed, for impiety is the mother of error and a person 
who has once sinned grievously is likely to fall easily into other 
sins. How is it possible for man to exercise control over 
human things when he has done violence to what is divine? 
How can a man who has done injury to God be good in the 
eyes of men? It follows, then, that other vices are found in 
the wake of serious implications of immorality, since derelic- 
tions, once entered upon, lead to others. You have dominion, 
therefore, over your own acts; you are master of your own 
transgressions. You cannot enter a plea of ignorance or of 
compulsion. You are subject to trial as a voluntary defend- 
ant. It was not by accident or by guile that you put yourself 
in the category of one accused of inflicting injury on God. 



Chapter 8 

(26) When you are admonished, then, to hold your peace, 
your conscience is aroused and your crimes become flagrant. 
What, therefore, is the meaning of the words, 'Let us go into 
the field?' 1 Does it mean that a place devoid of plant life 2 
is chosen by Cain for the murder of his brother? What place 
was more fitting for this murder than one that was barren? 
Nature, it seems, had purposely denied germinating powers 
to a place destined for such a crime, because it was not fitting 
that, contrary to nature, this soil should on the one hand 

3 Gen. 4.7. 



1 Gen. 4.8. 

2 Cf. Sallust, Bellum Jug. 79.6. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 427 

share in the contagion of parricidal blood and at the same 
time bring forth fruit in accordance with the laws of nature. 
When Cain said : 'Let us go forth into the field, 3 his words had 
meaning. He did not say: 'Let us go forth into the Garden 
where fruit grows plentifully, into a cultivated and productive 
place.' As a matter of fact, we know that parricides cannot 
obtain for themselves the fruit of their crimes. They expend 
time and eflort in a frightful act af impiety, yet they cannot 
attain their objective. They shun places that have been blest 
by nature's benignity. We have the example of Cain, who 
seems to have been afraid that a land productive of such 
goodly crops might be an impediment to his ghastly crime. 
He seems to have feared that the lushness of vegetable life 
with its variety of germinating fruits might by its mute 
appeal, even in the act of perpetating his crime, bring back 
to him his affection for his own brother. The highwayman 
shuns daylight, a witness of his crime. The adulterer blushes 
to see the light of day discover him. In like manner the 
parricide avoids land that is fertile. How could he bear to 
behold the common association of plants for productivity 
who was face to face with one who was bound to him by 
relationship of blood? Joseph was thrown into a dry pit. 
Amnon was slain in his own house. 3 Nature, therefore, by 
withholding her gifts from those places which were to be wit- 
nesses of a parricidal act and by her condemnation of innocent 
soil, makes clear to us the severity of the future punishments 
of the guilty. The very elements are, therefore, condemned 
because of the crime of men. Hence David condemned the 
mountains, in which Jonathan and his father were slain, 
to be punished with perpetual sterility, saying: Te mountains 
of Gelboe, let neither dew nor rain come upon you, mountains 
of death.' 4 



3 Cf. Gen. 37.24; 3 Kings 13.28. 

4 2 Kings 1.21. 



428 SAINT AMBROSE 

Chapter 9 

(27) Now let us examine the reason why God, as if He 
were unaware that Abel was slain, asked Cain: 'Where is 
your brother?' But we are shown God's knowledge, when 
Cain's attempt to deny his guilt is offset by the statement: 
The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the 
ground. 31 A profounder meaning may be seen here in God's 
exhortation that sinners do penance, for confession ^ of guilt 
leads to a lessening of punishment. Hence, in the civil courts, 
those who deny their guilt are put on the rack, whereas an 
admission of guilt tends to mercy on the part of the judge. 
To confess his guilt not to evade his guilt, but to admit it 
indicates that the sinner humbly awaits his sentence. Ad- 
mission of guilt placates the judge, whereas denial rouses his 
opposition. God wishes to stir you up to seek pardon. He 
wants you to look for indulgence from Himself. He wishes 
to have it made clear by your admission that He is not 
responsible for your wrong-doing. Those who, like the Gen- 
tiles, place the responsibility for their sins on some external 
force, inherent in God's decree or in His work, seem to bring 
God to court as one who is responsible for their sins. According 
to this theory, a person does not of his own will commit a 
murder if his actions are the result of some external force. 
However, we cannot condone those acts which emanate from 
ourselves, whereas we tend to excuse those that are beyond 
our own control. That the Author, not of your guilt, but of 
your innocence, should be made a partaker of the shame of 
your crime is a conception of a much more serious nature 
than the sin itself. 

(28) Consider the parricide's reply: 1 do not know. Am 
I my brother's keeper?' Although this reply savors of insolence, 



1 Gen. 4.10. 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 429 

there is still the implication that, considering the goodness 
of his brother, Cain should by his actions make known his 
loyalty to him. Who is there to whom he is more bound by 
necessity to offer protection? But how could that person who 
did not recognize the influence of family bonds have been 
expected to observe what is expedient in relations of brotherly 
love? Or how was it possible for him to comply with the 
laws of nature when he did not show reverence even to God? 
The existence of God is denied, as if He were unaware of 
Cain's act. Cain shirks his duty to be his brother's keeper, as 
if this were beyond the bounds of nature's laws. He steers 
away from judgment, as if he were above judgment. Why 
do you feel astonishment at the fact that he did not acknowl- 
edge his loyalty to his brother, if he did not even recognize 
his own Creator? From these incidents in Scripture we learn 
the lesson that faith is the root of all virtues. Wherefore the 
Apostle says: 'Our foundation is Christ' and whatever you 
build on this foundation is uniquely profitable and conducive 
to reward for virtuous acts. 2 

(29) A fitting reply, therefore, was given by the Lord to 
one who so foolishly denied committing the crime: 'The 
voice of your brother's blood cries to me from the ground.' 3 
This means: 'why are you ignorant of your brother's where- 
abouts? You were alone with him along with your parents. 
Among so few people, the presence of your brother should 
not have escaped your notice. Or are you relying on the fact 
that your parents are unable to play the part of accuser? I 
am unwilling to concede that a relationship founded on 
protection should become based on hazard and that in your 
case alone nature should revoke her laws. Do you think, 
then, that your crime would pass unnoticed just because 
your parents feel it their duty not to accuse you? Rather, you 

2 Cf. 1 Cor. 3.11,12. 

3 Gen. 4.10. 



430 SAINT AMBROSE 

should be condemned all the more severely for taking that 
stand. Granted that those dear relatives of yours ought not 
to accuse you or even think of slaying you. But if you do not 
recognize Me as a witness of the act, there still is the voice 
of your brother's blood which cries out to Me to bear witness. 
That voice carries more conviction that if your brother was 
still living. You were alone. Who else could have slain him? 
If you accuse your parents, you charge them with the crime 
of parricide. The person who has no mercy on his parents 
is capable of killing his own brother. A person who proposes 
to show that his parents are parricides could well be a par- 
ricide himself. It was well said that "the voice of blood cries 
out," not "the voice of your brother." In the very throes 
of death your brother preserves his innocence and his brotherly 
devotion. Your brother does not bring an accusation, lest it 
should appear to be one of parricide. It is not his voice that 
accuses nor is it his mind. Rather, is it the voice of that very 
blood which you shed. Your brother, therefore, is not your 
accuser. Your accuser is your own deed of wickedness.' At 
this point the accused person is unable to defend himself, 
because one who admits that he is guilty cannot rely on the 
evidence of witnesses. The deed speaks for itself. Moreover, 
the earth which received the blood also stands as a witness 
of the deed. 

(30) It was well said: 'The voice of your brother's blood 
cries from the ground.' He did not say 'cries from your 
brother's body,' but 'cries from the earth.' Although his 
brother refrains, the earth does not. If his brother is silent, 
the earth condemns. The earth acts as both witness and judge 
against you. The earth, still wet with the blood of your slain 
brother, is a hostile witness. As a judge, the earth, befouled 
by such a crime, is even more antagonistic, inasmuch as she 
opened her mouth and received your brother's blood shed 



CAIN AND ABEL : TWO 43 1 

by your own hand. When she opened her mouth, she expected 
indeed to receive words of brotherly love. She had no fears 
when she saw the two brothers. She was aware that the 
relation of consanguinity was an incentive to love, not to 
hate. How could the earth have a suspicion of parricide, 
when she had not yet seen a homicide? But you shed blood 
for which the earth in retaliation 'will not give her fruit to 
you.' 4 How guileless was that act of revenge! She who was 
so seriously outraged limited herself to the act of withholding. 
She refrained from inflicting injury. 

(31) No mean doctrine is expressed in the words, The 
voice of your brother's blood cries out to me.' 5 God gives ear 
to the just even in death, since they live unto God. And rightly 
are they considered to be alive, because, even if they have 
tasted the death of the body, they still enjoy a bodiless life 
and are illuminated with the splendor of their merits and 
are basking in light eternal. 6 God beholds, therefore, the 
blood of the just. He turns aside from the prayers of the 
impious, since, even if they appear to be alive, they are 
more miserable than all of the dead. They surround them- 
selves with flesh as with a sepulcher in which they have 
entombed their unhappy souls. What other comparison can 
be made? The soul is shrouded in earth and is bound by 
the inordinate desires of avarice and of other vices, so that 
it cannot breathe the air of heavenly grace. A sinner of this 
sort has been cursed by earth, which is the lowest and meanest 
constituent in this world of ours. The higher parts are, of 
course, the heavens and what exists in heaven, the sun, the 
moon, the stars, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities and 
Powers, 7 Cherubim and Seraphim. There is no doubt, there- 

4 Gen, 4..12. 

5 Gen. 4.10. 

6 CL Rom. 6.10-13. 

7 Cf. Col. L16. 



432 SAINT AMBROSE 

fore, that the person condemned by the inferior parts of the 
world is condemned, too, by the superior. How can Cain, 
when he is not absolved by the earth, be absolved by the 
righteous decisions made there above? Hence he is com- 
manded to be 'a fugitive on the earth, groaning and 
trembling.'* 

(32) There is no disputing the fact that the wicked are 
confronted with evil and always will be. Present evils cause 
sadness; future evils, dread; but the wicked are more per- 
turbed by present evils than by those in the future. Wherefore 
Cain said the Lord: 'My punishment is too great to bear. 
If you abandon me today, I shall hide myself from your 
face.' 9 There is nothing more grievous than to be a wanderer 
and to be irrevocably bereft of God. With a sinner's death 
there comes an end of sinning, whereas his life, deprived of 
God, his Pilot, suffers shipwreck and disaster. If the shepherd 
abandons his flock, the wild beasts make their inroads. In 
like manner, when God deserts man, the Devil makes his 
entrance. To be deprived of a guide is a matter of serious 
consequence for the foolish. When no physician is at hand, 
there is occasion for diseases to creep in and inflict more 
injury. The man who desires to hide his faults and cover up 
his sins goes into concealment. The man who does wrong 
hates the light of day and waits for darkness to serve his 
iniquities. The just man, however, is apt not to conceal 
himself from his Lord and God. Rather, he desires to offer 
himself to God, saying: 'Behold, I am here as one whose 
conscience is clear and who fears no detection.' 

(33) With reason, therefore, does the man who is conscious 
of evil hide himself and say: 'Whoever finds me will kill 
me. 710 The man of limited vision is afraid when death has 

8 Gen. 4.12. 

9 Gen, 4.13, 
10 Gen. 4.14. 



CAIN AND ABEL: TWO 433 

come upon him. He pays no heed to the continuous presence 
of death. The judgment of God is ignored and his sole 
concern is his body's decease. But from what source did he 
fear death whose parents were the only living beings on 
earth? There was the possibility that one who broke the 
ordinances of the Law of God could have had fears of an 
attack from wild beasts. A person who taught man how to 
kill could not have assumptions regarding the rest of the 
animal kingdom. A person who showed how the crime of 
parricide could be committed might well fear a parricidal 
act on the part of his own parents. The parents could learn 
that lesson from their son which later generations learned 
from their parents. 

(34) Now let us consider the reason for God's statement, 
'Whoever kills Cain shall be punished sevenfold,' 11 and why 
a token was placed upon him so that no one should kill him, 
a parricide. A provision was made to protect a person against 
the slaying of an innocent man. Besides the five bodily senses, 
man has the power of speech and the ability to propagate. 
He also has an eighth power, the power of reason. 12 The 
other powers are subject to death unless they are subject to 
the control of reason. Wherefore, the man who is without 
reason in exercising these faculties incurs danger to himself. 
A loss of reason, therefore, bring with it an ineffectual use 
of these seven bodily gifts. They have no efficacy without the 
saving bonds of reason. The number seven of which we speak 
has better uses. It conveys ideas of rest and remission. 13 The 
person, therefore, who has not spared the life of a sinner has 
begrudged him the opportunity for the remission of his sins 
and at the same time deprived him of all hopes of remission. 

11 Gen. 4.15. 

12 Cf. St, Ambrose, Letter to Horontianus, in Letters, trans. Sister Mary 
Beyenka. O. P., Fathers of the Church 26 (New York 1954) 264-265. 

13 Cf. Gen. 2.3. 



434 SAINT AMBROSE 

He will, in fact, be subject in equal measure to divine justice. 

(35) As regards the token God placed on Cain with the 
purpose of protecting him from death at the hands of another, 
this may be said. He wanted the wanderer to have time for 
reflection and by such kindness inspire him to change his 
ways. It generally happens that we entrust ourselves more 
readily to those persons to whom we are indebted. The favor 
granted to him was not great. Yet it was enough to scotch 
the foolish actions of a stupid man. This man, although 
liable to eternal punishment, did not demand that the pun- 
ishment be remitted. He believed that he should plead for 
his life on this earth where there is more anxiety than 
pleasure. Death consists in the severance of the body from 
the soul and is at the same time the termination of our life 
here. With the coming of death, man's bodily sufferings are 
ready to cease, not to increase. The fears, in fact, which 
frequently haunt us in this present life the griefs, pains, 
lamentations, and tortures of varied sort, the mutilations 
provoked by exposure to illness and disease all these for 
mankind are more often the equivalent of death. Death under 
such circumstances truly appears to be a mercy, not a penalty 
which has the character of finality. By a sentence such as 
this our life is not taken away. We experience a life that is 
far better. When the wicked who are unwilling to quit the 
paths of sin leave this life, they reach, without their knowing 
it, not a goal set by nature, but a terminus for their wrong- 
doing. Those men who are indentured to sin are thus pre- 
vented from doing other deeds of wickedness. If, again, men 
are seen to have fulfilled life's expectations, they are believed 
to have migrated to another world and not to have foundered 
here below. 

(36) This is an opportune time to discuss the question of 
the spirituality of the soul Truly happy is that life when 



GAIN AND ABEL : TWO 435 

every man who is conscious of having lived well has cast aside 
the trapping of his flesh and has freed himself from this prison 
of the body, 14 Then we are free to fly to that place above, 
where our souls once groaned in the act of commingling with 
the bodily passions of this flesh of ours. Our souls were des- 
tined there to complete the task appointed by our Pilot, 
namely, by the use of reason to bring under subjection the 
irrational emotions of our bodies. This is why the Prophets 
were late in accompanying the Jewish people into captivity. 
Otherwise, the rest of the people would have been deprived 
of the guidance and counsel of holy men and would thus 
have undergone more serious calamities. With their presence 
the people would be likely to be stirred on hearing words of 
encouragement and thus be induced to pay homage to the 
Lord, their God. The people, overwhelmed by the adversities 
of captivity, could thus avoid the sin of perfidy and not 
despair of their eternal salvation, 

(37) At this point it is opportune to refute the arguments 
of those who believe that this life here is the only one a life 
subject to calamity and to grief. Our refutation rests on a 
.simple alignment of facts. We have in Cain and Abel two 
contrasting characters. One was just, innocent and loyal. 
Because of the acceptability of his offerings to God he incurred 
the hatred of his brother and, while still a youth, become a 
victim of the sin of parricide. The other brother was unjust, 
evil, and disloyal. Polluted even with a brother's blood, he 
lived to a ripe old age, married, left a family and founded 
cities all this under the providence of God. Is not this a clear 
case for divine intervention? You are wrong in assuming that 
we have here an example of a life of pleasure. You do not take 
into account a prolonged old age, steeped in misery an old 
age that experienced those anxieties that time inevitably 

14 Cf. Cicero, De republica 6.14. 



436 SAINT AMBROSE 

brings in its wake. Add to this the fact that we are subject 
to disasters every moment of our lives. Surrounded by mon- 
sters like Scylla, are we not continually exposed to the poun- 
dings of a thunderous sea and compelled to dwell as best we 
can in habitations of sheer rock in the manner of that mon- 
strous animal a monster, not merely of immemorial time, 
but of immemorial wickedness? 15 Hence, Cain's old age is 
not to be considered as something desirable. It was, rather, 
an occasion for punishment, inasmuch as he lived in the 
midst of fears and spent his extended period of time in 
fruitless labors. There is no penalty more grievous than that 
which conscious guilt imposes. Behold, then, the perpetuity 
of life which the just enjoy an enjoyment in which the 
wicked have no share! The blood of the just man who has 
suffered death cries out to God, whereas the sinner's life is 
like that of a fugitive from justice. 16 

(38) Once the crime is admitted at the very inception of 
this sinful act of parricide, then the divine Law of God's 
mercy should be immediately extended. If punishment is 
forthwith inflicted on the accused, then men in the exercise 
of justice would in no way observe patience and moderation, 
but would straightway condemn the defendant to punish- 
ment. God in His providence gives this sort of verdict so that 
magistrates might learn the virtues of magnanimity and 
patience, that they may not be unduly hasty in their eager- 
ness to punish or, because of immature deliberation, condemn 
a man in his innocence. This would serve as a precedent not 
to impose a harsh penalty on some troublesome defendant 
and at the same time not permit a person to go unpunished 
who has shown no indications that he is sorry for his crime. 
God drove Cain out of His presence 17 and sent him into 

15 Scylla betrayed her own father. 

16 Cf. Gen. 4.10-12. 

17 C. Gen. 4.16. 



GAIN AND ABEL: TWO 437 

exile far away from his native land, so that he passed from 
a life of human kindness to one which was more akin to the 
rude existence of a wild beast. God, who preferred the 
correction rather than the death of a sinner, 18 did not desire 
that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act 
of homicide. Wherefore, punishment is meeted out seventy 
times sevenfold on Lamech, 19 because a person who does 
not reform even after a conviction has taken place commits 
a more serious fault. Gain had sinned at a time previous to 
Lamech's crime. Lamech surely should have taken precau- 
tions to avoid what he notes as reprehensible in another 
person. Lamech's statement was in accordance with the 
decree of his Judge that no one should on any occasion 
consider it right to strike a guilty man. From the point of 
view of our faith, no one ought to slay a person who in the 
course of nature still would have time for repentance up to 
the very moment of his death. A guilty man provided a 
premature punishment had not deprived him of life could 
well procure forgiveness by redeeming himself by an act of 
repentance, however belated. 

18 Cf. Ezech. 33.11. 

19 Cf. Gen. 4.24.; 'Sevenfold vengeance shall foe taken for Cain.' 



INDEX 



Abel, 360-367; prototype of 
Church, 362 

Abraham, 8-9; efficacious vow of, 
386-387; Isaac his heir, 381- 
382; baking of loaves, 392 

Acipenseres, 160 n. 

Adam, terrestial image of God, 
255; opinions on his failure to 
obey God's command, 308-309; 
participates in Eve's sin, 312; 
agent of his own death, 313; 
God's awareness of his sin, 
315; outside Paradise and 
placed therein, 301-302; and 
animals, 238-239; and Eve, 344 

Agar, 381 

ages, of world, 299 

air, element in Creation, 159 



Aisthesis, figurative of the first 
woman, 293; means 'sense/ 
294, 329 

Amalec, 14 

Ambrose, St,. and St. Basil's 
Hexameron, vi; echoes of Vir- 
gil, vii; of Horace and Cicero, 
viii; style, viii; Hymns^ ix, 
377 n. 

Amphiscii, 147 

Andrews, A. C,, 164 n. 

animals of the land: nature of 
horse, donkey, partridge, leop- 
ard, 233; upright position of 
man, 233-234; lessons from ant 
and watchdog, 235-236; faith- 
ful, as watchdogs of Church, 
236; Raphael and his dog 237; 



441 



nature of bear, serpent, tor- 
toise, 237-238; swallows and 
spring 238; nature of sheep, 
hedgehogs, 238-239; keenness 
and faithfulness of dogs, 238- 
239; lioness and young, 240- 
241; innocence of the lamb, 
243-244; wolfs fierceness lost, 
244; animals and their natural 
remedies, 244-245; differences 
in use of eyes in animals and 
men, 276; in use of hearing, 
276; Adam named first ani- 
mals, 328; Adam's beasts, 
man's senses, 329 

ant, 235-236 

dnthropos, 259 n. 

antrum, 37 n. 

Apelles, 306 

Apollo, 252 

Aristotle, 34 

Arius, 338; Arians, 254 

Ascii } 147 n. 

Ashmodeus, 237 

Asilas, 305 

astrology, irrationality of, 135- 
136 

avarice, 379 

Bardenhewer, O., vi n. 
Basil, St., vi, 218 n. 
bat, 223 

beauty, true in a work of creat- 
ive art, 65 
bear, 237-238 



bees, comunity of offspring, 212; 
loyalty to king, 213, 216; dis- 
cipline of, 214-215; gathering 
of honey, 215-216 

Beyenka, Sister Mary, ix n. 

birds, creation of, 191ff.; songs 
of, 193; water birds, 194-195, 
lessons from life of halcyon, 
195; geese in Roman capitol, 
197; flying and 'swimming, 
197; as examples for our life, 
200fl; loyalty in storks, 204; 
in swallows, 205; among crows, 
207; chastity in turtle doves, 
210; virgin birth and vultures, 
212; design in bodies of birds, 
217; evening song of, 221; 
owl's vision, 222; bat's webbed 
feet, 223; cock's crow and 
Peter, 224 

Cain, 349ff.; means 'getting/ 
360; pattern for school that 
everything is product man's 
mind, 360; prototype of syna- 
gogue, 362; becomes tiller of 
soil, 367ff.; offering to Lord 
of fruits of earth a twofold 
error, 383ff. 

Cicero, vii, viii, 4, 36, 49, 50, 77, 
90, 93, 104, 106, 136, 165, 193, 
205, 271, 275, 299, 402, 410, 
414, 435 

Claudian, 240 

Clement of Rome, 219 



442 



contraries, agreement of, 415 

Creation, beginning and end of, 
10-11; in Spring, 13; in capite, 
15; the work and the Worker, 
16; of angels, 18; of elements, 
19; Isaias on, 20; creation of 
earth 20ff.; David on foun- 
atio-n of, 21; earth invisible, 
28; earth not immortal, 29; 
creation of seas, 30; of sun, 31; 
work of Holy Spirit, 32; cre- 
ation of light, 38-39; of water, 
67ff.; water as type of Christ, 
70; creation of dry land, 71, 
80; of springs, 73; enlarge- 
ment of space, 78; and passim 

crow, 207 

Cunningham, M. V., viii 

Dante, 127 n. 

Darius the Mede, 76 

darkness, reason for, in crea- 
tion, 31 

day, meaning of, 42ff.; light of, 
differs from that of sun and 
moon, 132; its division from 
night, 132ft; superstition 
about fourth day, 158; sixth 
day and wreath of victory, 227 

death, often a lesser evil, 434 

Democritus, 49 

Diederich, Sister Mary, vii 

dogs, 235-239 

donkey, 233 



dove, 210 
Dudden, F. D,, v 

earth, shape of, 53; circumfer- 
ence of, 231; uselessness of 
such knowledge to Moses, 
231-232 

Ecclesia, 407 n. 

elements, in balance, 57-58, 80-81 

Elias, 364 

Eliseus, and iron floating on 
water, 74; his simple dinner 
of bitter herbs, 229-230 

Ennius, 90 n. 

Enos, 300 

Esau, 361 

Ethiopia, 297 

Eunomius, 91 

Euphrates, river in Paradise, 
295, 298 

Eve, first to be deceived, 301-302; 
sin of, 312-313, 349-350; and 
Adam, 825-327, 344 

evil, necessary to know good 
and, 314; opinions on, gained 
from Word of God, 317; and 
foreknowledge of God, 318 

Festugiere, A. J., 141 n. 

firmament, meaning of, 48-49, 
51-52, 62, 69 

first-fruits, 406ft 

fishes, created in sea, 162-163; 
marvels of, 168ff.; Peter the 
Fisherman, 171; sea-urchins 



443 



and presentiments of storms, horse, 233 
178; recognize their own hyle, original matter, 3 
bounds, 180-181; planned mi- 
grations of, 182-183; oysters, 
188; 'golden fleece' and dyes, 
188; Jonas and whale, 189 

flowers, 102 

fruits, 112ff. 



Isaac, gathered to his kin, 362; 

type of Incarnation, 363 
Isaias, sin and the shadow of 

death, 307 
Isidore, 148, 164, 299, 368 



geese, 197 

Giet, S., 153 n. 4 

Gihon, a river in Paradise, 295, 
297 

God, not just a Designer but a 
Creator of heaven and earth, 
46; the Son, the invisible 
image of 64; found rest in His 
own image, man, 261; as Artist 
created soul of man, 259ff.; 
soul of man, glory of, 263; 
question of His foreknowl- 
edge and beneficence, 318; 
man given means of grace by, 
320; His voice not of the 
body, 347 

Harnack, 306 n. 

heavens, stars of incomparable, 

265 

Henoch, 300-301 
Hippolytus, 123 n. 
honey, as medicine, 216 
Horace, viii, 151, 154, 181, 195, 

239, 245, 265, 267 



Jacob, pattern of good, 361-362; 
faith and continence of, 381; 
a shepherd, 382 

Jethro, 382-383 

Jubal, 26 

Judas, 417 

Justice, best exemplified in pa- 
tience and moderation, 436 

Kuhnmuench, 0, J., 223 

Labriolle, P. de, viii, 34 

lakes, in Italy, 79 

lamb, 243-244 

Lamech, and Cain, 437 

Lazarus, 39-40 

leopard, 233 

Levites, offer mentality of old 

age, 414; cities of, 415 
life, refutation of arguments 

against eternal existence of, 

435-436 

lioness, 240-241 
Lucretius, viii, 13, 56, 59, 150, 

151, 183, 227, 276; atoms of, 7 
luxury, of rich with compen- 



444 



sations for poor, 266; tempta- 
tions equal for both, 267 

Man, image of God, 91; origin 
of, 228-229; upright position 
of, 233-234; weakness of, 257; 
made a hunter of grace by 
God, 263; fisher and soldier 
for Christ, 263-264; all men 
equal in death, 265; organ of 
voice of God, 276; kindliness 
of his kiss, 277; his mouth a 
fount of disputation, 278; his 
body formed like a palace, 
278; his arms and hands con- 
ciliators for peace, 278; wicker- 
work of chest, 278-279; his 
internal organs, 279; his veins 
and genitals, 280-281; his legs 
express humility and faith, 281 

Manichaeans, 34, 91 

Manilius, 139 

Marcio, sect of, 34 

medicine: brain as gathering 
point of senses, 273; function 
of hearing, 274; design of the 
ear and nose, 274-275; sense 
of touch, function of mouth 
and tongue, 275 

Melchisedech, 8-9 

Mesopotamia, 295 

moon, type of the Church, 131, 
156; its light diminishes, not 
its mass, 131; waxing and 
waning due to divine purpose, 



152; tides, 153; lessons from 
its changes,, 154; magical tales 
of, 157-158; suffused light of, 
266 

Moses, 5-6; figure of one to teach 
Law, 363; died by word of 
God, 364; sepulcher unknown, 
365; and passim 

Mullach, 83, 127 

nature, barren places of, suited 
for crime, 426-427, 431 

Nisan, 158 

Noe, 301 

nous, 'mind/ figurative of first 
man, 294 

numbers, lift moral tone, 413 

old Age, importance of, for 

Church and State, 414 
Origen, 123 
ouranos, 60, 216 
Ovid, 56, 127, 186, 319 
owl, 222 
oysters, 188 

Paradise, its place and nature, 
287-288; situated in East, 301; 
God its Creator, 288; many 
trees in, 288; place called 'de- 
light,' 289; tree of knowledge 
of good and evil, 290ff.; ser- 
pent's presence due to will of 
God, 291; Devil in Paradise, 
292ff.; rivers in, arise from 



445 



well-tilled soul, 296; consid- 
ered as soul of man, 329; rea- 
son of ejection from 330; Paul 
caught up into, 331 

Pasch, 12 

Parsons, W., 168 

Petronius, 129 

Pharao, 6-7; prince of the word, 
14; and plague in Egypt, 390 

pharisee, parable of, 390 

Philo, ix, x, 12, 42, 294, 303, 389 

Phison, river in Paradise, 295- 
296 

phoenix, symbol of the Resur- 
rection, 219-220 

Photinus, 91, 338 

plants, like produce like, 92; 
examples of Providence in 
growth of, 93-94; function of 
poisonous plants, 95-96; in- 
tegrity preserved in speeds of, 
99; contribution of labor, 101; 
lessons from vine, 103-104; 
vine, symbol of the Church, 
104ft; its cultivation, 107; 
curative plants, 112 

Plato, 3-4 

pleasure, a woman who dwells 
within us, 369fL; a prostitute 
with enticing ways, 370-371; 
palace of, 370ft; the young 
man tempted, 373-374 

Pliny, 65, 117, 245 

prayer, conditions for validity 
of, 393; import of the Lord's, 



383; frequent, 394-395; length 
of, 423 
Pythagoras, 4, 50 

Rand, E. K., viii 
Raphael, and his dog, 237 
reason, an eighth power, 433 
Rebecca, 361 

Resurrection, date of, 158 
Robbins, T. L., vii 

Sabellius, 338 

Sabinus, ix 

sacrifice, 416 

Sallust, 90, 247, 258, 426 

Scari, 160 

Scriptures, Holy, Syriac and He- 
brew version compared, 33; 
Septuaginst and Vulgate, 305; 
Old and New Testaments by 
same Author, 316; Quotations 
from or references to Biblical 
writers or Biblical books: 
Acts, 64,91, 136,157,171,251, 
325 

Aggeus, 22, 127 
Amos, 43 

Apocalypse, 14, 256, 336 
Baruch, 113,226,378,391 
Canticles, 108, 111, 121, 122, 
145,146,152,252,262,373,377 
Colossians, 15, 18, 47, 51, 53, 
220, 240, 253, 254, 306 
Corinthians, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 
36, 50, 51, 64, 138, 157, 181, 
185, 219, 253, 258, 260, 262, 



446 



264, 265, 277, 289, 302, 317, 
331, 334, 345, 351, 353, 354, 

379, 382 
Daniel, 60 

Deuteronomy, 61, 120, 133, 
165, 209, 252, 255, 265, 267, 
346,350,362-364,369,383,385 
Ecclesiastes, 22, 75, 268, 376, 

380, 385, 402, 422 
Ecclesiasticus, 43, 154, 261, 376 
Ephesians, 53, 155, 302, 334, 
402 

Exodus, 12, 13, 15, 47, 221, 
254, 297, 324, 355, 364, 387, 
389, 390, 397, 399, 402, 404, 
406, 408, 409, 411, 412, 416 
Ezechiel, 291, 321, 324 
Galatians, 156, 299, 324, 344, 
351, 355, 363, 371 
Genesis, passim (over 125 di- 
rect and indirect quotations, 
chiefly from the first four 
books) 

Hebrews, 9, 16, 17, 64, 300, 
347, 407 

Isaias, 9, 20, 27, 30, 33, 58, 69, 
70, 78, 88, 89, 104, 109, 143, 
164, 182, 220, 231, 236, 255, 
261, 262, 266, 277, 278, 282, 
307, 342, 347, 350, 355, 366, 
387, 391 

Jeremias, 9, 75, 113, 120, 234, 
235, 238, 263, 372 
Job, 20-23, 26, 33, 75, 78, 127, 
179, 366, 378 



Joel, 43, 146 

John, 14, 15, 17, 27, 30, 32, 38, 

64, 70, 76, 106, 127, 131, 155, 

254, 255, 294, 316, 319, 321, 

338, 339, 347, 355, 386, 388, 

389, 417 

Jonas, 136, 190 

Kings, 68, 229, 352, 362, 391, 

427 

Lamentations, 237, 259 

Leviticus, 339, 347, 420 

Luke, 20, 38, 47, 49, 85, 105, 

130, 135, 147, 169, 171, 195, 

210, 263, 277, 293, 332, 337, 

345, 346, 374, 377, 378, 380, 

388, 391, 405, 418, 421 

Malachias, 127 

Mark, 100, 101, 251 

Matthew, 25, 44, 47, 61, 63, 

85, 88, 95, 105, 120, 122, 129, 

130, 135, 142, 146, 180, 189, 

218, 224, 262, 266, 273, 288, 

300, 303, 316, 321, 351, 363, 

369, 374, 380, 381, 387, 394, 

395, 399, 407, 411, 422 

Micheas, 288, 344, 345 

Numbers, 14, 36, 308, 389, 405, 

407, 408, 417 

Osee, 206 

Peter, 88, 224, 263, 302, 411 

Philippiaro, 55, 106, 127, 155, 

163, 258, 261, 353, 354, 364, 

366, 375 

Philemon, 108 

Proverbs, 11, 12, 15, 104, 175, 



447 



178, 181, 205, 220, 236, 267, 

295, 344, 350, 370-374, 377, 
378, 393, 425 

Psalms, 8, 16-18, 21, 22, 25, 28, 
31-34, 36, 39, 40, 42, 47, 49, 
54, 60, 62, 68, 70, 73, 80, 89, 
94, 101, 104, 107, 109, 127, 
129-132, 147-149, 154-156, 161, 
173, 180, 230, 233, 239, 250, 
251, 255, 263, 265, 273, 276- 
278, 281, 283, 288, 289, 294, 

296, 297, 303, 321-323, 337, 
342, 346, 348, 349, 354, 362, 
365, 375, 378, 389, 391, 393, 
398, 419, 421, 424 
Romans, 15, 16, 18, 23, 43, 
108, 128, 155, 156, 259, 318, 
324, 325, 331, 332, 341, 365, 
377, 386, 416 
Thessalonians, 405 
Timothy, 27, 38, 212, 220, 292, 
324, 327, 334, 337, 338, 351 
Tobias, 355 

Wisdom, 11,27, 117, 260, 289, 
332, 367, 388, 402 



Scylla, 436 

seas: Dead Sea, 19; Atlantic 

Ocean, 153, various names 

for, 77; Red Sea higher than 

Egyptian Sea, 76 
sea-urchins, 178 

seleukis, devourer of locusts, 221 
serpent, 237-238, 172ff., 251; 

meaning of its existence in 



Paradise, 293-294; cunning 
and envy of, 332-333, 342, 
351-352 

Servius, 37, 197 

sheep, 238-239 

silkworm, 218 

sin, to be condemned, not apol- 
ogized for, 425; God not re- 
sponsible for, 428; time an 
occasion for remission of, 433 

soul, of man, powerful, 256; 
made to image of God, 257; 
able to see places beyond the 
horizon, 258; without sex, 400; 
offspring of, 401402; spirit- 
uality of, 434-435 

species, creation of, 246-247; 
examples of adaptation to 
environment, of elephant and 
camel, 240-241; use of ele- 
phant in war, 248-249; effect 
of tiny animals on large ones, 
250; creation of serpents for 
our instruction, 251 

Springer, Sister Mary Theresa, 
vii 

sun, its heat modified by vapor, 
58-59; heaven and earth form- 
ed before sun, 126-127; eye 
of world, 127; of Justice, 127; 
a servant, not a master, 128; 
action of, 145 

swallows, 205, 238 

Symmachus, 305 

synagogue, 145 



448 



Thales, 6 

Thymallus, 163 n. 

Thursday, Holy, 225 n. 

Tigris, 295, 298 

Tobias, 237 

tortoise, 237-238 

trees, varieties of, 102; utility of, 
107; diversities of, 109; lessons 
from growth and care of, 110- 
111; gums and amber from 
Orient, 116; art of pine cone 
and in tamarisk, 119-120; ever- 
green and deciduous trees, 
120-121; fig tree and Adam 
and Eve, 344 

Turner, W., 24 n. 

Valentinus, sect of, 34 

vapor, 56 n. 

Verpertilio, 223 n. 

victory, close to defeat, 409 

Virgil, Quotations from or re- 
flections of his major works: 
Aeneid, vii, 27, 37, 55, 64, 73, 
75, 89, 107, 109, 134, 159, 161, 
164, 176, 189, 197, 199, 200, 
204, 210, 215, 221, 222, 228, 
239, 241, 264, 266, 270, 415, 
419 

Eclogues, 56, 108, 120, 125, 
153/158, 194, 200, 243, 410 
Georgia, vii, 13, 30,84,92-95, 
98, 107,108,121,152,155,158, 
163, 178, 179, 188, 193, 194, 



197, 199-201, 213-218, 222, 269, 
274, 275, 278, 403 



virtue, a woman who dwells 
within us, 369ff., her dis- 
course, 371-380 

vow, commendability of, 391- 
392; delay in, 396; aid of oath, 
398; conditions of, 424 

vulture, example of virgin birth, 
212 

Walpole, A. S., 223 

Walsh, G. G., viii 

water, kept in place by being 
balanced, 56; changes of, 115; 
and fertility, 117; in creation, 
160ff. 

whale, 189 

wine, temperate use of, 122; 
clean vessels for, 125 

wisdom, creative, proofs of ex- 
istence of, 88ft; banquet hall 
of, 377; inebriation of the 
mind, 378 

woman, created in Paradise, first 
to be deceived, 301-302; cre- 
ation considered good, 325- 
326; created after man, 327; 
admitted her sin, 349-350; 
furnishes human succession, 
400 

Zacchaeus, 417 



449 



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